Bow School District passes $30.35M budget in drive-thru voting, sees largest participation in years 

  • Members of staff working drive-thru voting in front of Bow High School Saturday stand six-feet part.  Courtesy

  • Bow Emergency Management Director Lee Kimball sits outside Bow High School on Saturday during Bow’s driv-thru voting for annual meeting.  Courtesy

  • Cars wait in line for drive-thru voting in front of Bow High School on Saturday.  Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 4/27/2020 3:36:53 PM

Voter participation at the Bow School District annual meeting Saturday was six times higher than last year as residents turned out overwhelmingly for drive-thru voting. 

“The process was so different this year, that I think there was a curiosity factor,” Bow School District Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Duane Ford said. “People wanted to see how it went. ”

Voters cast 679 ballots compared to 116 voters who attended last year’s meeting. Ford said it's the largest annual meeting voter turnout Bow School District has seen since he started in 2005. 

Casting their ballots one by one through car windows in a line of vehicles, residents in Bow voted to pass a  $30.35 million school district budget, 5.3% higher than last year’s $28.8 million. 

They also passed two significantly pared down warrant articles aimed to bolster the future expansion renovation of the Bow Elementary School.

Instead of passing two warrant articles that would have put more than $1 million in capital reserve to and take $150,000 from capital reserve funds for architectural and design work, voters agreed to put $1 in capital reserve and take $1 from those funds for architectural and design work. 

“We heard a lot of feedback from the public, more than 60 emails actually, many of which talked about the tax burden and wanting to lessen that for people during this difficult time,” Superintendent Dean Cascadden said.

Per meeting rules, once the warrant was approved, articles could not be removed, just amended. The amendments were made by the school board during a virtual meeting in the week leading up to voting. 

The budget number was maintained as presented in February and passed, 499 t0 180. 

Officials said voting went smoothly, with no more than five or six cars waiting to vote at once. Most voters showed their driver’s licenses through their car windows, and many had already printed their ballots at home and filled them out. They pulled up to the ballot box, which was placed on cars’ driver’s side and didn’t have contact with anyone who was working at the polls before voting. 

“With a lot of people, they didn't come in contact with anything,” Ford said. 

The two supervisors of the checklist, police and the moderator wore masks and gloves as they handled ballots and directed voters. 

Bow was originally supposed to hold its annual meeting in March, but it was delayed due to COVID-19. 

Saturday’s meeting was the culmination of a week of preparations, including several virtual meetings where the warrant was presented to voters and amendments were made by the school board. 

“This was hard – this was not easy for our school board. This was a lot of effort and work that they and the moderator put it in to get the process finalized, just to get a process that was fair that people could comment on and have their opinions known was a challenge,” Ford said. 

He said many people were grateful.

“I heard several people say it – down by the ballot box – I heard from a lot of people, ‘thanks for the work you did.’ I think people wanted to come out to support their neighbors,” Ford said. 

The first question on the drive-thru warrant was whether or not voters approved of the meeting procedures, including virtual meetings held earlier in the week. If that warrant was not passed, all the other articles that were voted on would become null. A final tally showed 583 voted in favor, 70 against.

The votes were counted by the moderator, school district clerk and two supervisors of the checklist. Staff arrived around 8:30 a.m. and finished the final vote count around 3:30 p.m., Ford said. 

Ford said participation in the district’s annual meeting changes depending on what’s up for approval. 

“There’s been years when we’ve had less than 200 people come to the annual meeting. Usually, we’ll have 300, sometimes maybe up to 400. Really, there have been years where the auditorium is pretty empty,” he said.

This year’s turnout was a pleasant surprise, he said.

“It was wonderful how many came out. I saw a lot of Bow High School seniors there with parents,” Ford said. “They are incredibly disappointed with how this has turned out for them, with missing the end of their senior year, but they still came and voted and were a part of this community event.” 

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