City School District voters turned out in record numbers Tuesday to deliver a crushing defeat to a proposed $8.5 million elementary school bond issue.
The plan to build an 18-classroom, K-5 school on River Street was defeated 2,944-446 as nearly half the district's 8,000 registered voters went to the polls.
The School Board received the tally more than 90 minutes after the polls were supposed to close. In one of three districts, voters waited for an hour and elections officials said that delays of up to 45 minutes were common throughout the day.
School Board members adjourned after receiving an unofficial tally that showed the proposal was soundly beaten in all three polling places.
The vote count was: Middle School, 1,137-200; Robert Morris, 1,031-180, and Jackson, 776-66.
School Superintendent David H. VanScoy said the board would probably not decide on an alternate course of action until January. "We'll live with the growth for now since the new school, even if approved, would not have been ready until 1993," he said.
Officials blamed the sluggish economy, high school taxes and the fact that residents had not been able to vote on a new school for 30 years for the overwhelming rejection.
The new elementary school, which would have served the city's southwest area and complement three other elementary schools, was proposed to relieve overcrowding and to meet projections of growth in the lower grades in the next decade.
The bond issue would have cost the average taxpayer $108 a year for construction and operating expenses. However, that would have been in addition to record high property taxes this year resulting from reassessment and a 10 percent school tax hike due in part to a 30 percent raise granted teachers in a three-year contract negotiated earlier this year.
The turnout might have been higher, officials said if many people discouraged by long lines had not left.