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Buffton-Harrison safety referendum fails, turnout plummets

File photo: Rebecca Green

Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District had its own safety referendum on the ballot this election. Voters rejected it – but not by much.

The district’s safety referendum only failed by 107 votes, with 58% no to 42% yes. Superintendent Brad Yates says the lack of other races for many voters could have led to the low turnout.

“We did not have a municipal election. Our city council spots were all uncontested races, so for a majority of our voter base the public question on the safety referendum was the only item on the ballot.”

While voter turnout dropped across the region from 2019, the last municipal election, Wells County saw the steepest drop from 36% four years ago to 13% this year.

The referendum would have paid for two school resource officers and a mental health therapist. The three schools in the district currently share one school resource officer.

Bluffton-Harrison currently has a pilot program for mental health in place through a grant from the Lilly Foundation, which the district will see out through the end of the year. Yates says they’ll evaluate the program to determine if they’ll continue the program with resources already available.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.
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