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Superintendent defends levy election timing

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

Harrison County School Superintendent Dr. Carl Friebel was pleased with the results of Saturday's excess levy vote results, although he was a little disappointed with the number of voters who made it to the polls.

The low turnout -- about 18 percent of the county's 42,470 registered voters -- could have had something to do with the election timing, Friebel said.

Mere days after the presidential election was finally decided and just nine days before Christmas, many residents probably had other matters on their minds, he said.

"It's hard to say, but at this time of the year, people probably have other agendas," Friebel said.

It's hard to find someone in Harrison County who did vote Saturday. When asked about the excess levy, responses varied from "What levy?" to "When is the election?" to "I forgot."

"It's just kind of a strange time to have an election," said Sandy Markam as she carried a load of Christmas presents from the Meadowbrook Mall to her car.

"To be honest, I forgot all about it," she said. "It would have made more sense to have it with the other election in November."

But in 45 years, Harrison County has never combined an excess levy with another election, Friebel said. The main reason, according to Friebel, is that school officials want residents to be absolutely clear about the issue.

"We don't want it confused with something else," he said. "There were so many issues on the November ballot, people may have just said, 'Well, I don't understand this one so I'm not voting for any of them.'"

Friebel also said that other school districts that have combined excess levies with other elections have seen narrower margins for passage or even outright defeat.

Holding a special election strictly for the excess levy cost the school system about $70,000, a figure that Friebel said was built into the budget. The majority of that money was used to pay local poll workers, he said.

The levy, first introduced and passed in 1955, is for five years and will provide nearly $60 million for textbooks, computers, extracurricular activities and various supplies.

Harrison County has 29 public schools with an enrollment of 12,286 students. The school system employs 808 teachers, making for a pupil/teacher ratio of 15.2 to one. The average class size is 22 students, according to the school system's Internet Web site.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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