Indian River School District’s expense referendum was defeated by just 30 votes.
The final vote totals from yesterday were 3,321 for and 3,351 against.
“While disappointed, we respect the wishes of our public and the workings of the democratic process,” said IRSD Superintendent Susan Bunting, in a statement. “In the coming weeks, we will go back to the drawing board to re-evaluate our needs and formulate strategies to accommodate our rapid growth in student enrollment.”
Bunting said enrollment has grown 3 to 4 percent every year since 2010, and that upward trend is expected to bring enrollment up to 12,000 students by 2022.
In addition to keeping up with the “unprecedented enrollment growth,” the $7.35 million the district hoped to raise by increasing property taxes was to be spent on school security programs, technology, textbooks and student organizations.
With the district’s needs still on the table, Bunting said the board of education could be asking district residents to go back to the polls again next year.
“The Board of Education will consider many options, including the possibility of another referendum in 2017,” she said.
Tuesday’s referendum vote came five days after a damaging report was released by State Auditor Tom Wagner. The audit accused the district’s then-Chief Financial Officer Patrick Miller of malfeasance at the beginning of the year. Miller was placed on administrative leave and officially retired at the end of June.
During a news conference last week, Wagner said the release of his report so close to the vote was not politically-motivated.
District leaders also held a news conference, on Friday, after the audit came out.
“I think we have a track record of being open and honest,” said Bunting, at the time. She also reassured district residents that their tax dollars would be spent correctly.