BENZONIA — Election results came in slow from the Benzie County Clerk's office.
The first update came 90 minutes after the polls closed Tuesday, reporting only the numbers from Gilmore Township and the 290 residents who cast their vote. Results from eight more townships — minus the biggest, Benzonia, as well as Almira, Crystal Lake and Inland — dropped shortly after midnight.
The numbers showed the $38.7 million bond proposal from Benzie Central Schools struggling to gain traction among voters. The tally stood at 920 "no" and 684 "yes" among voters in the four counties — Benzie, Grand Traverse, Manistee and Wexford — asked to approve the request.
District officials went back to the well for the third time in 14 months, having lost the last two in May and November of 2019 but 114 and 101 votes, respectively.
Former Benzie Superintendent Matt Olson, who continues to work on the proposal after leaving the district, said "failure is just not an option." Olson said many in the community understand the district's needs, adding Benzie staff and community members tried to do the right things to respond to feedback from the unsuccessful bonds.
"Our needs are not going away, and I say that emphatically," Olson said. "I live here, my kids go here, and I care about this district desperately — that's obviously why I want to see this win."
The new proposal decreased the requested amount by $9 million, the term of the bond by five years and the mill rate from 3.0 to 2.1 — although this proposal included the 0.9 sinking tax fund, which would have been taken off the table if the last proposal passed.
The highlight of the bond is the construction of a new kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school, which will replace Crystal Lake Elementary.
If the proposal gets a third thumbs down from voters, Olson said they'll take it back to the public a fourth time.
"I'll be the first one to say, 'Let's go back to the drawing board and figure this out,'" he said. "What are the other options? Not doing anything for our kids and our future? I just refuse to believe that's an option."