Archive for Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bond opposition ready for revised plan

Election 2011

Election 2011

April 12, 2011

The Tonganoxie USD 464 bond issue was soundly defeated this past week, but an opponent is ready to get to work on a new plan.

Gretchen Busche, who helped organize the opposition group, The Committee for the Kids, said the district needs a new elementary school and another bond question should be put on a ballot “as soon as possible.”

“First of all, I’m disappointed more people didn’t turn up to the polls,” Busche said. “Turnout is disappointing, but I am excited the community came together and voted.”

She said she hoped people who voted against the bond would play a part in the planning for the next bond issue “because we do need a new grade school.”

The final official tally, which was determined after Leavenworth County Commissioners canvassed the votes, was 1,121 no votes to 683 yes votes.

At Monday’s school board meeting, superintendent Kyle Hayden said the plan needs tweaking when the next bond issue is brought before voters.

“It’s a convincing ‘no,’ so I think that means we need to rework the plan and get more people involved and take a different approach people will support,” Hayden said.

Board member Diane Truesdell mentioned there were comments from some about the wording of the bond question, that it was vague in some areas and might give free reign to the district to spend money. A bond attorney created the wording, Hayden said.

City council

A new face has joined the Tonganoxie City Council.

Challenger Dennis Bixby and incumbent Bill Peak were elected to the council this past week, beating out incumbent Paula Crook, who was elected in 2007.

Bixby, a former construction project manager who now is self-employed, was the top vote-getter with 430, while Peak, who is retired from the U.S. Postal Service, was a close second with 427, and Crook, who works for Meals on Wheels, had 363. The three candidates were vying for two seats.

Peak was elected for the first time April 5. Mayor Jason Ward appointed him in 2010 to fill the position previously held by Tom Putthoff, who resigned this past August.

“I was humbled by the support,” Peak said. “And for me, it was a very pleasant experience. I went to more than 400 houses door-to-door. Several of them asked good questions.”

Peak said he’s hoping to get better attendance at meetings from the public “but at the same time, show up and do the best I can for the city, whether there’s anyone there (at meetings) or not,” he said.

He said the budget is one situation the city faces and another, he said, was “hoping the town can grow a little, and we can help to enhance it.”

Bixby, meanwhile, was elected in his first bid for public office.

“I was excited,” Bixby said about the Election Day results. “You get excited whenever you succeed at anything.”

Bixby said he spent some time since the election meeting with the police and fire chiefs and riding along with a police officer.

“I’m just getting a feel for what their challenges are,” he said.

Building up the city’s reserve will be key, Bixby said.

“They gave me about a 50-pound backpack of charts and ordinances and all kinds of light reading I’m supposed to get up to speed on,” Bixby said with a laugh.

School board

A retired carpenter will be the newest member of the Tonganoxie school board.

Gene Becker won election April 5 against Jonathan Boone and Tamara Behm.

Becker garnered 642 votes to Boone’s 496 and Behm’s 431.

Becker, whose wife, Debbie, is administrative secretary at Tonganoxie Elementary School, will take the at-large position currently held by Mildred McMillon, a longtime board member who also served at one time on the state board. McMillon announced in December she would not seek re-election.

“I just thank the voters,” Becker said.

Now Becker, whose term begins this summer, said dwindling state aid would be an issue he’ll be trying to help tackle. The board will need to move forward after the bond issue was defeated, he said.

“My thoughts are that we have to go back to square one and rethink everything and get a larger community involvement,” Becker said.

Comments

kansanjayhawk 3 years ago

The last bond issue (2004) built strong community support over a two year period in which the needs were presented and various community groups were given the information they needed to make a proper decision. It would be a mistake to rush forward to another vote prior to building that support, and coming up with a plan that does more with less, we can do this as a community. However, now is not the time to proceed to a vote because of the economic situation many of our fellow community members find themselves in. I would suggest beginning the process now to come up with a plan that meets our needs for capacity in a pared-down approach (much less that 26 million) and aim for putting it on the ballot at the Presidential Election when there will be a large and very representative voter turn out.

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hricane23 3 years ago

kansanjayhawk,

The issue of the economy was brought up at the beginning of the "campaign", and has been debated ad nauseum. I understand the ongoing economic climate makes it difficult for struggling families to think about setting aside more money for an additional tax. But there are more financial benefits to passing a bond as soon as possible. Interest rates are at an all time low. Construction costs are low, specifically, in regards to labor, as construction companies cut their profits to compete to get the work. You speak of doing more with less, well, right now presents the opportunity to do more with less cost.

I understand that adding $15/ mo to an already tight budget is emotionally challenging. In reality, do you believe that $15/ mo will lead to more foreclosures? Do you believe that $15/ mo will lead to divorce? Do you believe that $15/ mo will lead to more poverty?

Additionally, let's say this thing passed last week. The property tax increase would have started with the 2nd half of 2011's taxes. 2nd half taxes aren't due until May, 2012, giving an additional year for families to work their budgets. It's not like a tax collector starts showing up the next day asking for his $15. If a bond is passed in November, the additional tax would be due Decmber, 2012.

The argument that today's economy means we shouldn't do it is based on pure emotion, and not reality. If you are against ALL new taxes at ANY time, well, that's another thing altogether. But if you agree that something needs done, then I ask that you consider the economic reality of the situation.

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Bill 3 years ago

The big, overarching question in this debate should be: "Does anyone believe that spending $26 million for the bond issue will improve the education of our kids?". Although we don't have exit polls to inform us of why people voted the way they did, I suspect many voters answered this question with a "no" vote.

If more space is really needed, fine, let's add space, but at a cost the economically-embattled citizens of this community can afford. If we don't need it quite yet, let's wait until we do. Let's forget the argument about "it's cheap money now, we'd better spend it while it's here". The truth is, times are tough and about to get even tougher. President Obama has finally admitted his multi-trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see are unsustainable. Can you say "inflation"?

With the prospect of high inflation, does anyone really want to saddle ourselves to a $26 million mortgage?

The truth is: buildings don't educate students. They can't. If you want to see what effect billions of dollars and world-class facilities had on student achievement, just look across the state line in Kansas City, MO. in the 1980's. Just Google it.

My solution: Let's go ahead and spend the $26 million dollars and pay the loan off over 12 years, the time it takes a 1'st grader to graduate from high school, put the money in an interest-bearing account and use 100% of the money in the classrooms of our district over that 12 years.

Pay teachers based on performance and end tenure. Extend the school day, extend the school year, increase graduation requirements, provide remedial after-hours programs for kids who want and need extra help, organize ("track") classes so kids of similar ability are put in the same classes to maximize educational efficiency, get rid of then-unneeded paras and other personnel, require uniforms, a strict code of conduct and get serious about homework. End social promotion from one grade to the next. While you're at it, ax any organized sport or other non-mission-critical activity that's expensive or isn't an educational benefit to the whole student body.

Simply put, in exchange for the $26 million dollars, governments and school districts agree to get serious about education for a switch.

For those I have just angered, let me say that Intramural sports can be organized and run by the Rec commission and played on school district fields/courts after hours for free or paid for by the players or paying fans.

Twenty-six million dollars spent directly in USD 464 classrooms and a few common-sense business-like changes would really be doing something "for the kids". Can you imagine the future these kids would have?

I'd be the first to vote "yes" for this bond issue.

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hricane23 3 years ago

Bill,

You say "The truth is: buildings don't educate students." Well, the truth is, that's not true.

More and more research has shown that there is a direct correlation between improved, education-friendly buildings, and stronger, more efficient learning.

Consider this:

  • Students learning in better building conditions score 5 to 17% higher test scores than students in substandard building conditions

  • Students in classrooms with the most exposure to daylight progressed 20% faster on math tests and 26% faster on reading tests than those in classrooms with the least amount of daylight exposure

  • Schools with better learning conditions experience up to 14% lower suspension rates than schools with poor conditions

But you are absolutely right that teachers are the core of the learning experience. So, consider this one: - Quality of learning environment has a 66% greater impact on teacher retention than salary.

Our physical environment plays so much into everything we do. Think about it... Are you more productive on a sunny day, or a rainy/ cloudy day? Do you sleep with the lights on? If you work in an office, are you more efficient with a window?

So, yes. The truth is: buildings DO educate students. And I've got more stats, too. I just picked a few.

Also, you say "If we don't need it quite yet (the space), let's wait until we do. Let's forget the argument about 'it's cheap money now, we'd better spend it while it's here.'"

You misunderstand the "argument". The argument is that we DO need the space now. 690 kids in a school built for 500. You say that the economy isn't going to get better any time soon. That IS the argument. The need is here, the time is now to do it at these lower costs. In 1 or 2 years, the economy isn't going to be booming. Our neighbors that are struggling now will still be struggling (hopefully less so, but still paycheck to paycheck). Meanwhile, interest rates will have climbed because of the inflation you fear, and higher construction costs. Then, we look at doing a bond, and suddenly the $15/ mo we'd pay on our taxes has gone up to $25 or $30/ mo., most of it paying interest on the bonds. A 2% increase to the interest rate means approx. $10 million more in interest on a $26.9 million obligation.

The argument isn't "it's cheap money, and we should spend it while it's here." The argument is we HAVE to spend some money to fix our grade school needs, and if we wait 1 or 2 years we'll spend a lot more!

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Dale Woodyard 2 years, 12 months ago

78.6% of all stats are made up on the spot.

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hricane23 2 years, 12 months ago

Can't... let... you... have... last... word...

It's a good thing my stats are of the other 21.4%.

Just Google "do better facilities improve learning?". My stats were directly from the PDF entitled "Do Better School Facilities Improve Learning?" All stats are from cited studies and other various research projects.

Enjoy!

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only1 3 years ago

I don't even know where to start with this mess, so I won't address 90%. One area I will address though is this: Extend the school day and year? Why? The demise of the American family and the attitude of "pointing the finger" at the schools is a bigger issue than our education system. I'll be as blunt as I know how to be. We need to focus on "parenting" in our society more than our education system.

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Padfield 3 years ago

"My solution: Let's go ahead and spend the $26 million dollars and pay the loan off over 12 years, the time it takes a 1'st grader to graduate from high school, put the money in an interest-bearing account and use 100% of the money in the classrooms of our district over that 12 years."

That isn't legal. Many of the people that voted against the bond issue don't understand school finance laws. Money from a bond issue must be used for facilities.

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