It’s gonna take a lotto luck (Lamar Co. follow-up)

The results are in — and it’s bad news for the Lamar County School District…

YES 53.82%
NO 46.18%

…a 60% supermajority of yes votes was needed for the win — hence why it’s a loss.

I’m writing this reaction to the results from the perspective of an Ohioan. Yes, I know Lamar County, Mississippi, long ago presented something like this to voters. At least one matter failed; at least another passed. They came in the pre-Mississippi Lottery era.

So for starters, why did this year’s referendum fail? Either it was a big ask overall — or it seemed like a big ask combined with others getting the short-end of a stick. If a certain meeting is any indication, it’s apparently the latter.

But first, let’s review what this would’ve meant for the district if “yes” cracked the 60% barrier: new buildings for Sumrall High, Purvis High, and Oak Grove Middle Schools; a new office building for Oak Grove Elementary School; and a new gym for Lumberton Elementary School.

At a public meeting in Lumberton, months before the vote, some attendees hinted they didn’t like the idea of only getting a new gym for the elementary school. Knowing what I know, Lumberton needs and deserves more from the school district.

The school district superintendent blamed low voter turnout for the loss — as well as miscommunication and alleged wrong information in social media chatter.

Well — how’s this for chatter? Recall I lived in Ohio, another lottery state, before relocating here in 1991. The Mississippi Lottery, depending on how you look at it, started in 2018 (formation) or 2019 (selling its first scratchers). Even in that other lottery state, bond issues and levies were the norm from school districts; granted, they most likely came from city school districts as opposed to county school districts.

While there was chatter, for and against the Lamar County bond issue, I’m just asking — was there a formal campaign from the school district or friends thereof? Back in my Ohio days (most of the 1980s through the summer of 1991), when a school district put up a bond issue or levy up for a vote, a campaign immediately followed — most likely on local radio stations and in the newspapers. Good friends gave voice to a radio spot ahead of a crucial bond issue vote in ’91. Signs on sidewalks and billboards plus the newspaper ads followed suit.

For various reasons I have to keep close to the vest, I was not able to make a side-trip to Lamar County for the duration of the bond issue period — from the time it was unveiled through last night’s vote.

Still, overall, this isn’t the first bond issue I’ve seen from a school district while residing in a lottery state.

Doug’s Place Flashback #1: Thinking back to the time in the early ’90s the bond issue and levy failed in my old Ohio neighborhood, the school superintendent, while conceding defeat, admitted it was a gamble. Senior adults and retirees I recall speaking with prior to the big vote feared they were being “run out of town.” Was some of that history repeating itself in Lamar County?

Doug’s Place Flashback #2: During my time with Cindy, while visiting her neighborhoods in Delphos, Ohio, near Lima, a bond issue there was soundly defeated. One of her relatives pointed out it was a tough sell to senior adults and retirees. It made me think back to Flashback #1.

To be fair to the school district, if leaders “thought forward” with the bond issue and extremely made over five schools instead of three — with improvements for the elementary schools to match the other three schools — perhaps we’d have different results. There’d be a lot for everyone — instead of a lot for most and a little for others. Again, it sounds like the district needs to support Lumberton a lot more than it already is at the present time.

Hey, there’s still money from the Mississippi Lottery coming Lamar County Schools’ way. Right? I mean — the Mississippi Lottery just started selling tickets for Lotto America. That’s gonna rake in a lot o’ bucks for schools everywhere in Mississippi. Right?

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