Archive for Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bond issue decision heading to voters

October 27, 2004

Carol Jacobs plans to vote "Yes" in Tuesday's school bond election.

That's when voters will decide whether to approve a $25.3 million bond election for school construction.

If voters approve the bond issue, which would result in a tax increase of approximately 10.908 mills, the district will:

  • Build a new middle school for fifth- through eighth-graders on the district's 80 acres near Pleasant and Washington streets.
  • Remodel and add to the existing grade school to convert it to a school for kindergartners through fourth-graders.

¢ Remodel and revamp the high school and junior high into a high school campus for freshmen through seniors.

Jacobs and her husband, Bob, are retired and living on fixed incomes. The thought of an added tax bite isn't something Carol relishes. But, she said, schools are more important.

"I think we need it," said Jacobs, who has grandchildren attending Tonganoxie schools. "I think people are going to keep moving out here."

While she's aware of the grade school's overcrowding, Jacobs said the school itself appears to be in good condition.

"I think they've done a good job with what they have," Jacobs said.

Jacobs, who has lived in Tonganoxie most of her life, said it's important that the building project address future needs.

"Something I remember is every time they built a new school the minute they built it they said it wasn't big enough," Jacobs said. "So I am hoping this time it will give them room to grow."

While Jacobs votes yes on Election Day, another area resident will counter her vote.

James Richardson, a retiree living on a fixed income at an area mobile home park, isn't against improving schools. He just wants to do it for less money. Richardson suggests the school turn to radio announcer Paul Harvey for help.

One of Harvey's sponsors is General Steel, which sells supplies to build metal buildings, including schools, Richardson said.

"I'm sure if you get in touch with Paul Harvey he would send a representative down here to talk with you," Richardson said.

Stephanie Maurer represents the younger generation -- those with children in school.

Maurer and her husband, Andrew, plan to vote for the school bond issue.

If anyone understands the grade school's overcrowding, it's Stephanie Maurer. She volunteers at the grade school at least three days a week. Tuesday afternoon she was on her way to the school to help kindergarten students carve jack-o-lanterns.

"We need a new school," Maurer said. "The halls are crowded, the lunchroom is crowded, the classrooms are crowded."

The high school, she said, is dark and outdated.

"The junior high really seems to be the only thing we have going for us," Maurer said. "I think because it is newer."

Though she understands people not wanting to pay more taxes, Maurer said the school construction is imperative.

"It's a desperate situation," she said. "I think if anybody would not vote for it, it is because they have not spent any time in the school. If you really want to know how bad it is, go spend some time in the schools, try to walk in the halls at the beginning of school or at the end of the day, and spend five minutes in the lunchroom -- and you'll see why we need a new school so bad."

Mildred McMillon has long been a proponent of public education.

She served on the state school board from 1986 to 1998. She's worked on the school's bond committee, doing all she can to get the upcoming bond issue passed.

And, the 77-year-old Tonganoxie woman paid for her own newspaper ad promoting the school bond issue.

Her reasoning has little to do with the fact that she'll soon have two great-granddaughters attending school in the district.

"I think time is of the essence," McMillon said. "I realize that people don't want a raise in taxes, but I think taxes are going up anyway and that's no fault of the children."

Meanwhile, Tonganoxie school Superintendent Richard Erickson feels he's done about all he can do to help set the plans in place and promote the bond issue.

He said he's been impressed with the bond committee's efforts, as well as with those who participated in the facility planning committee meetings.

Erickson has stated on numerous occasions throughout the bond campaign that this is a prime time for the bond election to pass. Currently, the state funds 30 percent of the amount of school construction for school districts. And, he has said, the area's predicted continued growth will work in lowering the mill levy for individual taxpayers.

"I'm just thankful to everyone for their help and assistance in developing this plan," Erickson said Monday. "We certainly have a need with our kids right now with the overcrowding and the outdated facilities at the high school. I just want to say thanks to everyone for putting this plan together."

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