GUTHRIE — Some residents in the Guthrie School District are amazed they're being asked to support an $89.8 million school bond issue that would raise property taxes nearly 24 percent.
"They're asking for almost $90 million. That's something akin to what the federal government would spend on a project," Guthrie resident Philip Moseley said. "Don't get me wrong. I would like a new school, but I want something more reasonable.
"I'm retired. I've got a good pension. But what about some little widow woman making $1,000 a month on Social Security and having to pay Medicare? They're not using any type of common sense about this."
The vote will be Tuesday.
If passed, the cost to property owners would be $23.61 a year for every $100 paid in property taxes. On a $150,000 house, the increase would be $354.15 a year.
School officials said the bond would pay for construction of a new 1,200-student high school to be built just to the east of Interstate 35 and north of State Highway 33 on 80 acres to be purchased from the city.
The project also would include construction of a new gymnasium, tennis courts, a track, and soccer and softball fields.
The current high school would then become a middle school, and the existing junior high would be renovated to become a community fine arts center and convention center. School officials say the annex to the building also could house the Guthrie Public Library, the Y and other county or city agencies.
The bond also would pay for construction and repair of parking lots and roads throughout the district, as well as technology equipment and textbooks.
The total cost of the projects is about $65.4 million.
Improvements needed now, school chief says
Guthrie schools Superintendent Terry Simpson said the balance of the bond issue would cover fees, interest and other costs associated with a lease revenue bond.
Simpson admits the request is ambitious.
"We're in a position where it's not going to get cheaper, and our facilities are at a point where they must be dealt with," Simpson said. "Our construction dollar will go further today than it will four or five years from now."
When asked about the need for extra sports facilities, Simpson said, "We have in Guthrie Public Schools a tennis team, and we've never hosted a tennis tournament because there are not enough tennis courts in town. We have served as a host in Edmond, but we can't host one in Guthrie.
"We have the two-time defending 5A boys' state championship track team, as well as last year's 5A academic state champions in track, and we haven't hosted a track meet in 17 years.
"We have a recent two-time state championship boys' basketball team, and we don't have a facility that will allow us to host anything other than the first round of playoffs."
Guthrie voters have rejected the past two bond issues brought to them — $5.8 million in April 2009 that would have removed the junior high school, and $12 million in October 2008 that would have repaired the junior high and other schools in the district.
Votes on both came in just a few points short of the 60 percent approval rating needed to pass school bond issues.
Bob Bozarth said he's opposed to this new issue, as well.
"I feel like the school board is trying to do too much at once, and increasing the taxes that much at one time is difficult for people."
Local Realtor Jan Goodyear is on the opposite side of the fence. He's spearheading the vote yes campaign.
"If we can't have good schools and good teachers, the community will not grow and thrive," he said.
Goodyear says he looks at the taxes as an investment for children and grandchildren.
"The citizens are being asked to pay more in property taxes, but if it grows the community and new businesses open up, that tax goes down," he said.
A community forum on the Guthrie school bond issue will be at 6:30 p.m. today at Guthrie West Christian Church, 1802 W Logan. The forum is sponsored by the nonprofit group Neighborhood Solutions.