Archive for Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Basehor-Linwood voters reject school bond issue

November 9, 2005

The people in the Basehor-Linwood school district have spoken.

And, again, they have spoken out against higher taxes for local schools.

By an 81-vote margin, voters last week said no to the school district's proposed $22.9 million bond issue.

Had the bond issue passed, the district would have spent the funds to construct a new elementary school and to upgrade all other schools in the district, except the high school. The last time voters in the Basehor-Linwood district passed a school bond issue was 1997.

Leavenworth County Clerk Linda Scheer said 15 provisional ballots were added to the overall total during Friday's vote canvass, so the final tally showed 1,197 votes against the bond issue and 1,116 in favor. The bond issue failed in all three voting precincts.

About 31.5 percent of the district's 7,301 registered voters cast ballots.

Voter turnout was below that at the most recent bond issue attempt, which voters rejected by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin in April 2003.

In the last 15 years, school district voters have rejected seven bond issues. Before a 1997 question passed, voters turned down four bond issues -- placed on the ballot between 1990 and 1996. The other failed bond issues occurred in 2003 and last week.

The most recent bond proposal, a plan formulated throughout the last two years by administrators, educators and members of the District Advisory Council, was the district's response to area residential growth and the enrollment pinch felt at many of the district's buildings, particularly the three elementary schools.

An approved bond issue would have paid for a new kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school and renovations at each school in the district, except Basehor-Linwood High School.

The bond issue monies would have allowed for construction of 56 additional classrooms and capacity for another 1,765 students, or double the district's current capacity.

Now, on the heels of another failed bond issue, administrators, educators and DAC members must go back to the drawing board. It's too early to know what contingency plans will look like, school officials said last week.

School Superintendent Jill Hackett reinforced the idea that no definitive plans have been made for handling an influx of new students, but she mentioned rearranging grades or inflating the student-teacher ratio as some possibilities.

That ratio is currently set at a board-approved 24-to-1.

One option Hackett believes won't be supported is adding modular classrooms to handle an overflow of new students.

"I don't know it will be of any interest to anyone," Hackett said.

During an election night watch party at Community National Bank, school board members spoke to a disappointed, pro-bond issue crowd. They urged community members to take part in the advisory council.

"We need your help," board president Kerry Muehler said. "Come to DAC and bring other people, too. ... If you have ideas, you need to tell us."

Board member Doug Bittel voiced similar sentiments.

"We are faced with some problems," Bittel said. "So come to the DAC meetings."

The DAC's next meeting is set for January.

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