Prosser schools weigh new bond vote

The Prosser School Board will vote in two weeks whether to again ask voters to pass a bond for a new high school.

Board members seem likely to favor for an April bond election, judging by information presented at Tuesday night's study session.

A $41 million bond to build a new high school east of Art Fiker Stadium almost passed last week. It had the support of almost 57 percent of voters, just short of the required 60 percent.

That momentum needs to be maintained, Superintendent Ray Tolcacher said.

If the board waits until after the end of the school year, it likely would lose about $1.5 million in state money, as enrollment is expected to dip slightly in the new school year, said Steve McNutt, the project's lead architect.

Waiting until next year could also jeopardize Prosser's spot in line for $23 million in state money, Tolcacher said.

Jim McNeill, the bond attorney hired by the district, said the August election is a poor choice because many parents and teachers are on vacation. And a May election is out for bond re-runs under state law. That leaves April 26.

Paul Fredericks, the chairman of the bond committee, made an impassioned plea to the board to try again as soon as possible.

If 110 "no" voters switch, the bond will pass, he said. Informing voters better about the project's costs will sway some, he said.

And he has heard "shock and outrage that it didn't pass," Fredericks said. That could bring out more voters in favor next time, he said.

But others at the meeting still had concerns.

"There's nothing we can take out to lower the cost?" asked Lyndon Benson.

And Brian Gustin said he resented having just one choice, which he called a "Rolls Royce of a choice."

"I challenge you to show me what's extravagant about it," said board member Tim Rankin.

The board plans to vote March 1 on setting a new bond election.