Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Basehor-Linwood school bond issue heading to voters

March 26, 2003

Next Tuesday, Basehor-Linwood voters will have a second chance to vote on a $29.9 million bond for school construction.

A special election in January netted dismal voter turnout, with only 26 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. Of those, 695 voted for the bond and 997 voted against it.

Obviously, district officials hope next week's election will be different. School districts in Kansas are only allowed one special election each year. To be able to quickly put the measure up for another vote, school board members in February voted to add it to the April 1 general election ballot.

Jill Hackett, who will take over as the district's superintendent in July, said she hopes the bond election passes.

"I am eager to make sure that we have the facilities available for the Basehor-Linwood students," Hackett said. "I'm fully aware of the increased growth that the district is experiencing, so it's a high priority of mine that there be space available for learning and for teaching."

Currently, the state of Kansas picks up 34 percent of the total cost of both principal and interest on any new bonds. In this instance, with a $29.9 million bond, local taxpayers would shoulder about $19 million, with the state picking up the rest. However, if a new bill under consideration passes, the amount paid by local taxpayers would grow.

An approval of House Bill 2058 would mean that after June 30, the state would cease paying the 34 percent on school districts' new bonds.

With the state paying 34 percent, school officials estimate the additional bond levy of 12.6 mills would add $213 a year in property taxes for the owner of a $150,000 home.

Without the state's 34 percent contribution, the taxes would be set at 20.71 mills, meaning the owner of a $150,000 home would pay $325 a year.

Not everyone's voting yes

While school officials favor the passing of the bond, there are those in the district who do not.

Edna Elder has already put two "Vote No" signs along Leavenworth County Road 25 and she plans to put up more this week.

The Linwood homemaker makes the signs herself.

"I take time off from housekeeping and the garden and things like that, but when issues come up that need some support, I try to give it to them," Elder said.

This is not a good time for taxpayers to take on more financial burdens, Elder said.

"I'm sure nobody's against educating our kids," Elder said. "But we have to stop and look at the economy and at what we can afford."

Elder has several bones to pick with the school board's decisions on building.

For one thing, she said, the district doesn't need 79 acres for a school.

For another, Elder said that in her opinion, the proposed new middle school's architecture is not energy efficient. Nor, she said, does it allow room for expansion.

"A building isn't education," Elder said. "It covers the children but it's too elaborate to be economical. They need to simplify their architecture."

And, Elder is concerned that if and when the middle school students who attend Linwood transfer to the new middle school, the current Linwood school will be too large for the elementary grades to fill it.

"There's going to be a lot of rooms that are empty," she said.

Elder said it's important for everyone to vote next week, even if they don't agree with her.

"I sure hope people get out and vote and if they can support me I'd be glad to have them," Elder said. "But if they don't, I still want them to get out and vote because we need their ideas."

Covering all needs

Kerry Mueller, president of the Basehor-Linwood school board, said the $29.9 million bond issue would cover everything the school district needs.

"Prior to the election, the board spent 18 months straight looking at this plan and meeting one or two times every month. We feel very strongly that this is the right plan," Mueller said. "In the campaign before the January election, people would ask if this doesn't pass, 'What is plan B?' There is no plan B."

Dana Miller, chairman of the "Yes committee," which has been promoting the new construction, agreed with Mueller.

"There really isn't anything we can change," Miller said. "This plan is the very best plan for the district. They've already taken out all the things that they didn't think were important."

Mueller added: "We did our homework up front."

Flack for buying 79 acres

Basehor-Linwood superintendent Cal Cormack said he's heard criticism of the district for purchasing 79 acres for the new middle school, which if built will be located on County Road 2 across from Glenwood Ridge Elementary School.

"We didn't need 79 acres to build it on," Cormack said. "But that was the parcel of land."

The construction is necessary to keep up with growth, Miller said, noting she had heard more than 1,000 houses were possibly slated for construction in the next few years. If they are built, that could mean as much as a 70 percent increase in enrollment, she said.

Cormack said it's difficult to convince people that the schools may soon have more students than they can hold.

"It's been difficult to get people to visualize and understand what we feel is a critical need because they haven't felt it," Cormack said. "They don't feel it until their kid comes home and says there are 52 kids in my fifth-grade class."

Miller said it's been suggested that in lieu of building, the district install modular classrooms.

"To the tune of $200,000 to put in a mobile building, as a parent, let alone as a taxpayer, that just makes almost no sense to me," Miller said.

Likewise, it wouldn't be feasible to cut corners on existing plans. She used the proposed new middle school as an example.

"They say you could build that building for a lot less," Miller said. "I suppose you can. You can cut a building back and not finish ceilings, spray the deck and stuff like that, but after you do all of that you maybe will save from five to 10 dollars per square foot which over the lifetime of the bond has no impact on the mill levy."

That wouldn't be suitable as a parent, either, Miller said, adding:

"If I don't want to live in a substandard home or work in a substandard facility, why would I ask our kids and teachers to go to school and work in a substandard facility?"

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