DURANT, Okla. - An election in Bryan County has sparked a vigorous debate whether or not to raise taxes for a new high school. Durant says they have needed a new high school for 20 years, and the vote is in. Mystic Matthews has the results.
A majority of voters in Durant voted in favor of a sales tax increase. Of the votes, 52% were for the proposition, casting 1,195 ballots and 48% were against it, casting 1,086 ballots.
As the ballots were counted, I spoke to people on both sides of the debate to hear what they had to say about the results.
"A new high school would mean tremendous opportunities for our students. Interesting research showes achievement gains with new facilities," says Durant Superintendent Dr. Terry James.
James may very well get his wish after learning that Tuesday’s referendum passed. “One of the main factors is increased enrollment. The high school has a little over 800 students and the hallways are crowded. As we look at additional growth, we'll need more classrooms and hall space."
And more classrooms will soon be under construction. Dr. James says they will immediately go to work because a basic plan is already in place for the project.
And while the voters just decided to go ahead with the tax, Dr. James says planning has been in the works for some time now. “It's been a project needed for many years and in serious discussion the last 4 to 5 years."
But now that will have to be carried out, so the proposed site will no longer be an empty field.
Dr. James says a new high school is not just for the high school students, “The primary springboard for this election is our middle school, which was the old high school and is over 90 years old. The classrooms are small and cannot be renovated. The main need is to get our middle schools in a better facility."
Bryan County Commissioner Monty Montgomery is on the other side of the debate, and despite the tax issue passing, Montgomery still wonders if it's the best option. “I never questioned the need. I just questioned whether or not there would be a better way to pay for it besides an increased sales tax."
Dr. James says he is thrilled by news of the referendum's passage. He projects six more months of planning and up to 2 ½ years for construction. The building is set to be ready in the fall of 2011.