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SHERIDAN — The $15.85 million general issue bond to support renovation and expansion of the Sheridan College Technical Education Center was defeated by a margin of 367 votes in a special election Tuesday.
Of the 5,417 total votes cast, 2,525 were for and 2,892 were against, according to official election results.
“It was sort of exciting to watch,” Elections Supervisor Brenda Kekich said. “One or two votes in some precincts were the difference.”
A total of 5,421 ballots were cast, but four were invalid due to being unmarked or double marked, making the official total 5,417 ballots, Kekich said.
Prior to the election, there were 14,830 registered voters in Sheridan County, meaning approximately one-third of voters turned out to cast a ballot.
“For a special election, it was a pretty good turnout for an off year,” Kekich said.
Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young said supporters were stunned following the election results, but said they remain positive.
“At this point, we just slammed our hand in the car door, and we kind of are stunned a little bit, but on the positive side, if you think about the fact that the economy is weak and struggling and we were asking people to pay more taxes, which is a very hard thing to sell, we had a lot of support, and we’re really, really pleased and proud of that,” Young said.
“All along we’ve said we want to be respectful of taxpayers, and so I think we have to be respectful of the vote last night,” he added.
Still, Young said, the problem remains.
“We have more students who need and want this training; we have employers who want the students; and our economy needs those jobs in order to thrive and grow. I don’t know what the answer is right away, but that problem is still there, and it’s something that we’re going to have to address,” he said.
Sheridan College will attempt to make short-term accommodations in the tech program, but until another solution can be found, dozens of students per year will be turned away from the college’s welding, machine tool and diesel technology programs, Young said.
“You have to have a plan B, and if you can’t get where you’re going the first way, you sort of have to step back and try to figure out what the next direction, the next steps might be,” Young said. “It’s sort of like those GPS things that tell you, ‘recalculating,’ and that’s kind of what we’re doing right now.”
The bond would have raised property taxes approximately $2.09 per month per $100,000 of property owned for no more than 16 years. Precincts in Dayton and Ranchester, representing voters inside and outside the towns, all came in with more votes cast against the bond issue, the difference being close to twice as many against in most cases, according to official election results.
Funds from the bond issue would have been used to update current technical center facilities and add approximately 27,000 square feet of new education space for the college’s welding, machine tool and diesel technology programs.