By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. — The voter turnout was small, but the margin of the vote Tuesday was more than enough for passage of a bond issue for the Carthage R-9 School District designed to cover interest costs on construction of a new Carthage Vocational-Technical School.
The proposal was approved by nearly 77 percent of those casting ballots, with 643 votes in favor and 195 opposed, according to complete but unofficial results. Approval by a two-thirds majority was required, even though the issue will not increase property taxes, because the measure called for a general-obligation bond issue.
“It’s great,” Blaine Henningsen, superintendent of schools, said of voters’ endorsement.
Henningsen said he did have some concerns about the measure, based on the turnout at informational meetings conducted by the school board. Two sessions were held; one resident showed up at the first one, and the second attracted no one.
“Jeff Jones (board president) said people understood the proposal and that it wouldn’t raise taxes, and he was right,” Henningsen said.
Voter approval of the bond issue doesn’t affect the vo-tech construction project. The building already is going up on a site east of the new Carthage High School.
What it does mean is that the up to $850,000 that the Steadley Foundation pledged to pay for interest financing won’t be needed for that purpose.
The Carthage-based foundation pledged $3 million to help build a new vo-tech school — $2.15 million to match a state grant and the remainder to cover interest costs associated with the project.
After plans for the building were announced, the possibility for interest-free financing was made available via Qualified School Construction Bonds that were authorized as part of the federal stimulus package.
School officials decided to seek approval for the bonds, saying that would allow the money that Steadley had pledged as interest to go to some other local needs. Federal guidelines require that voters approve such bond proposals before districts can be eligible for the bonds. The bonds will be sold to absorb the financing costs, and bond purchasers will get federal tax credits instead of interest.
The school board in April accepted a bid of just over $3.6 million for the vo-tech project, then recently approved a change order to increase the project by $391,000. Original bids came in under the engineer’s estimates, so officials decided to add electronics classrooms, which were planned as part of a second phase.
Other vo-tech programs will remain or be expanded in buildings in the 600 block of South River Street.