Voters in the Coalgate school district signed off Tuesday on a proposal to issue $3.55 million in bonds to build a new cafeteria, which will double as a community safe room.

The bond issue passed easily, with 74.60 percent of voters in favor and 25.40 percent opposed, according to unofficial election results from the Oklahoma State Election Board. Under state law, school bond issues must receive at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.

District officials were pleased with the election results, Coalgate Superintendent Greg Davidson said Wednesday.

“We were really excited that the people of the community saw the need for a new cafeteria and safe room, and we’re excited about what the future holds for us,” he said. “This will be a tremendous asset, not only for the kids here at school but also the community.”

The existing cafeteria is 48 years old and was built to serve one meal per day to approximately 300 to 400 students, but it currently serves three meals a day to approximately 600 to 700 students, according to a fact sheet supplied by the district. The current cafeteria also has major plumbing and electrical problems due to its age.

Davidson said construction on the new cafeteria may begin within four to six months and will take about 18 to 24 months to complete. When finished, the new cafeteria will have a seating capacity of 350 to 400 students and a safe room capacity of about 1,400 people, depending on fixtures.

Once the new cafeteria is finished, the district will convert the existing cafeteria into five new classrooms, according to the fact sheet. The new classrooms will replace 43-year-old portable buildings that currently house Head Start and pre-kindergarten students, allowing those students to move into Emerson Elementary School.

“The Head Start and pre-K students will either be moved into the newly renovated cafeteria or into Emerson Elementary,” Davidson said. “The plan is to use the new classrooms for either an early childhood center or a fifth- and sixth-grade center. We will re-evaluate that when the building is complete. Either way, Head Start and pre-K will be moving out of the old portables.”

Davidson said officials developed the bond issue proposal after conducting online and hard-copy surveys, which showed overwhelming support for a new safe room and upgrades to the current cafeteria.

The bond issue will cause property taxes to increase by $11.36 for every $100 of property taxes paid for six years, according to the district.

Property owners who currently pay $100 in property taxes would see their annual tax bills increase by $11.36, for a new total of $111.36. Those with $500 annual tax bills would pay an additional $56.82, raising the total to $556.82.The district will have six years to pay off the bonds.

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.