Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2004

Consultant: District must fight apathy

February 26, 2004

It's usually a given that 20 percent of voters will say no to a bond issue no matter what they hear.

That's the experience John Fuller, consultant with the DLR Group has had with school bond issues. DLR is the school district's architectural firm hired on a contingency basis to lead the district through a possible school construction.

At a facilities planning committee meeting Thursday at the board office, Fuller, along with fellow consultant Mitch Hanna, told members that it's critical to get credible information to that middle percentage.

"The number one reason is not taxes," Fuller said. "The reason school bond issues fail is apathy."

The district plans to get the word out three times in the coming weeks with community forums for its proposed $25.6 million bond issue -- Thursday, on March 9 and April 5. All meetings will be at 7 p.m. in the Tonganoxie Elementary School's south gym.

Committee members suggested that voters be shown the need for larger facilities, such as pictures of cramped classrooms.

¢ Area residents are encouraged to attend a community forum to discuss the school district's proposed facility improvement plan.

¢ The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in the south gym of Tonganoxie Elementary School.

¢ The proposed plan details the building of a new 5-8 school on the district's 80 acres, renovating the existing grade school into a K-4 school, and changing the existing junior high/high school campus into a 9-12 high school.

¢ The preliminary cost estimate for the proposed plan is about $25 million. In addition to this meeting, two other forums will be held -- both beginning at 7 p.m. -- on March 9 and April 5 at the elementary school.

Tonganoxie school superintendent Richard Erickson mentioned attending a school program in one of the elementary gymnasiums recently that held 710 people. The gym technically was supposed to hold only 350 for fire code reasons.

Erickson also voiced concern about the THS auditorium.

"I'm embarrassed right now with our auditorium," Erickson said. "We don't treat our kids very nicely with that facility."

To convey some issues the district faces, the panel discussed providing visuals of the project for the public forums.

"I think PowerPoint is good I guess, but I'd like to see a poster of all the improvements," Jim Truesdell said.

April Dohle said the public must understand the importance of a bond issue now.

"The bottom line is we pay to educate our children or we pay in the future," Dohle said. "We have overcrowded prisons that cost a lot more than education does and they're filled with people without educations."

Richard Riedel said taxes likely would be an issue for aging residents. "The people who will defeat this will be the elderly people," Riedel said.

Erickson said he knows the taxes will be a strain for some, but he said this is the most opportune time for a bond issue.

"I really believe if we're organized and we win over those potential yes voters, we've got a shot at this thing," the superintendent said. "There will be a lot of no voters, too."

The superintendent said he hopes the public will see how necessary the school improvements are.

"The academics is very strong," Erickson said. "We have outstanding teachers, but the facilities are not what they need to be."

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