HARRAH — The Harrah School Board will meet at noon Wednesday to decide whether to call a May 14 special election on a $36.47 million school bond issue that would be slightly more expensive than a similar one that recently was defeated.
School board members unveiled the new proposal at their Monday night board meeting. Controversy surfaced immediately.
Oklahoma County Treasurer Butch Freeman said by Tuesday morning he already had received a telephone call from a Harrah property owner who questioned whether such a quick election would violate the spirit — if not the letter — of a state law.
The law says a district cannot call an election “on the same proposition within four months after such proposition has been defeated at an election by the school district electors.”
Kevin McBrayer, newly elected school board president, said board members believe they would be in compliance because a few changes were made to the plans and cost of the new bond issue.
He said board members would explore the issue further before Wednesday's scheduled vote.
New bond issue is different
Harrah Superintendent Dean Hughes said there are at least two main differences between the proposed bond issue and the $36.105 million bond issue that was defeated Feb. 12. Plans for renovation of an auditorium were dropped and plans for a safe room at one school were added, he said.
Among proposed major projects that remain with the new bond issue are new administrative areas with enhanced security entrances to all schools; safe rooms for schools that don't already have them; a new high school football field; other high school sports facility improvements; eight new high school classrooms, 10 new junior high classrooms, four new classrooms and a physical education building/safe room at Virginia Smith Elementary; a new library/safe room at Clara Reynolds elementary; and new phones, furniture and technology improvements at various schools.
The football field and sports facility improvements would cost more than $9.2 million.
More than 55 percent of Harrah school district voters cast ballots in favor of the last bond issue, but the bond issue failed because the district fell 46 votes shy of the 60 percent approval needed for passage.
Hughes said he believes cost was the major reason the prior bond issue was defeated.
Mayor discusses Feb. 12 election
Harrah Mayor Larry Fryar, however, said he believes residents voted it down because they thought school officials tried to slide the election by them.
“I've had a lot of people call me,” Fryar said. “They probably could have gotten it passed the first time if they had gone about it right. ... You've got to keep the public informed about what's going on.”
Fryar said he believes a school bond issue is needed, but wishes the school board would take more time, work at informing the public and focus on educational improvement before focusing on sports improvements.
Property taxes would increase 6.64 percent if the bond issue eventually is approved, school officials were told. That would amount to $68.90 for the owner of a $100,000 home, Freeman said.
The proposal calls for the issuance of $36.47 million in bonds, which would produce just under $27.2 million in estimated project funds, according to Ron Fisher, president of Stephen H. McDonald & Associates, which is handling financial aspects of the bond issue for the district.
The other $9.27 million would pay the $612,755 cost of issuance and be part of the lease-purchase payments that would pay interest costs, Fisher said.
Although the cost of the proposed bond issue is $365,000 higher than the defeated bond issue, the amount available for projects would be $537,651 less. Fisher said that's because there would be a year's delay in putting the bond issue on the tax rolls for collection. It would take longer to begin paying off the bonds, which would increase interest costs, he said.
At a glance
Harrah school bond projects
Following is a list of proposed projects that would be funded by a proposed $36.47 million bond issue that the Harrah School Board is considering scheduling for a May 14 vote: