Ash Grove school district approves voter recount after close loss on bond issue
ASH GROVE, Mo. (KY3) - UPDATE: The Ash Grove Board of Education has approved the recount process during a meeting Monday night.
Ash Grove Superintendent Dr. Aaron Gerla tells KY3 he will contact county clerks in Greene, Dade, and Lawrence Counties this week to start the recount process.
The Ash Grove Board of Education is meeting Monday night to consider asking for a recount of last week’s election results. Voters narrowly turned down the district’s bond issue which failed under unique circumstances involving three different counties.
The $9.4 million bond issue would have added six classrooms to alleviate crowding in Ash Grove’s 700-student school system as well as more restrooms and a new gym that would also serve as a storm shelter.
According to state law bond issues in April elections need a supermajority of 57.1 percent to pass.
In Greene County, where most of the district’s students live, the measure passed with 59 percent approval ( Yes-367, No-255).
The catch though is that the Ash Grove district also serves parts of two other counties, Dade and Lawrence.
In Dade County, the measure won by seven votes (Yes-26, No-19) while it failed by 19 votes in Lawrence County (No-47, Yes-28).
So in total across all three counties, the measure won by 100 votes.
That calculates to a voter approval percentage of 56.7 percent compared to the supermajority needed of 57.1 percent.
In other words, the bond issue failed by just 4/10ths of a percent.
As you would expect Ash Grove Superintendent Dr. Aaron Gerla was disappointed about being so close...yet so far.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “If three people would have been ‘Yes’ votes instead of ‘No’ votes, it would have been a different total in the end.”
So on Monday night the school board is meeting to decide about the recount request.
It’s something allowed under the law depending on the margin of victory or defeat.
“Anything one percent-or-lower you can have an official recount requested,” said Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller, who would be one of the three county clerks involved.
“It’s one of those where we’re part of three counties so if we’re gonna recount we’re gonna do it in all three counties,” Gerla explained. “We’re not telling the county clerks they did anything wrong but when you’re three votes short you’re just trying to make sure you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do and that the numbers are correct.”
Schoeller, who’s been Greene County Clerk since 2014, said the circumstances are unusual but not unique.
“Occasionally you will have city boundaries or fire protection district boundaries that are in more than one county,” he said. “But this is the first instance where I’ve had a recount that we share with more than one county.”
Back in 2018 Ash Grove voters approved $800,000 worth of school improvements but that involved no increase in property taxes. The 2023 bond issue would have involved a 30-cent increase (99 cents per $100 of assessed valuation) which may have been a key contributor to why it fell just short this time.
“That’s always a concern for us,” Gerla said. “I live in the district and I’m a taxpayer as well. I don’t want my taxes to go up so we’re trying to show people why it’s important and what the need is.”
As to what happens if the bond issue remains a no go?
“That’s something for the board to consider,” Gerla answered. “If we do run this again we need to determine what changes need to be made because we want the result in our favor next time. Right now we’re just talking to people about why they voted ‘No’ and see if there’s something we can do to change that in the future. In the past Ash Grove has always had good support for the schools so we hope that can continue.”
Schoeller pointed out that elections do take some interesting turns.
“We’ve had elections end in a tie,” he said. “When that happens with an issue that means it fails. When that happens with a candidate you either have a coin-toss or a run-off. My very first election as a county clerk we had a tie in a city council race and a school board race. In the city council race it was Fair Grove and they decided to do a coin flip to determine the winner. In the Walnut Grove School Board tie they decided to have a run-off. That being my first election as county clerk I certainly had to come up to speed very quickly in terms of what to do in those circumstances.”
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