Transportation bond measure passes

Robert Smith

Pawhuska voters last week approved a $250,000 transportation bond issue intended to provide funding for new school buses for the public schools. School district officials have said they viewed replacing aging buses as a safety issue.

Turnout for the bond vote on Sept. 10 was light, with just 174 ballots being cast in a city of roughly 3,400 people. There were seven absentee ballots, 16 early votes and 151 votes cast on election day.

The final tally was 143 in favor of the bond issue and 31 opposed. That is 82.18 percent in favor. The legal standard for passage was a super-majority of 60 percent.

David Cash, superintendent of Pawhuska Public Schools, voiced excitement about the result.

“That is all positive,” he said Thursday. “It’s so needed that we’re starting to gather bids right now.”

Cash said he was not at all surprised by the overwhelmingly favorable vote.

“Our community supports the schools wholeheartedly,” Cash said. Of several bond issue options that the Pawhuska Board of Education reviewed, the transportation bond proposal was viewed as likely to have the least impact on local property tax bills.

According to figures made available by the school district, passage of the transportation bond issue would likely raise the tax bill of someone who previously paid $100 to $102.92 in the following year.

The first-year increase for someone who previously had a tax bill of $500 would likely be $14.62, and the increase for someone who previously paid $1,000 would likely be $29.23.

Pawhuska Public Schools has an aging bus fleet, including some vehicles that are well over a decade old.

Transportation Director Dean Hix recently explained the oldest large bus in the Pawhuska fleet was a 2004 model that had been relegated to use as a backup bus. There were some 2005 models that had undergone significant repairs in the past couple of years and remained in fair condition, a 2008 model that had been parked because of electrical issues and an unsafe braking system, and some 2013 models.

Last school year, Pawhuska had three buses break down at the same time and a bus company out of Oklahoma City provided the school district with a loaner bus, Hix said.