Danedri Thompson
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The Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors offered its endorsement to the USD 231 school bond issue in late December.
The group, comprised of business owners and leaders in Gardner and Edgerton, agreed to endorse the $72 million bond issue to build a new elementary school, a new middle school, add turf to the district football field and upgrade technology.
“It’s a difficult issue, because Chambers have historically always supported education,” Chamber President Steve Devore said.
Devore said he does not know whether the 16-member board’s decision was unanimous. He left the room when the vote occurred.
USD 231 superintendent Bill Gilhaus, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board, also left when the votes were tallied.
Most members of the Chamber board do not have school age children in the district.
“However, Chambers feel the need for a very highly educated and qualified work force,” Devore said.
Board members weighed the needs of a strong workforce against the additional costs the bond issue may require of business owners.
“The board was very conscientious of the fact that due to the economy there are a lot of businesses in a more difficult financial position,” he explained.
Additional property taxes and Gardner utility rates related to the bond issue won’t kick in for several months. District officials have promised no tax rate increases related to the bond issue for two years.
“The hope is with the intermodal starting off and the increase in development we’ve seen, hopefully, in the next two years we will increase the volume of sales so (businesses) will not feel the same impact as if (tax rate increases) were instituted today,” Devore said.
Voters residing in the Gardner Edgerton School District should have received ballots in the mail this week. In order to be counted, ballots must be returned to the Johnson County Election Office no later than noon on Jan. 31.
Chamber members were not polled by the Chamber Board about the decision.
Members of the Chamber board include Mary Nelson of Metcalfe Bank; Lisa Bunce, of Kansas Gas Service; Jim Coughenour of Gardner Bank; Karen Rumble of Patriots Bank; Pat Katzer of Olathe Health Systems; Alyssa Petrick of Alyann Photography; Sean Snyder of Farm Bureau Financial Services; Shaunak Patel of Best Western Hotel and Suites; J.P. Davies of Edward Jones; Patty Gay of W.D. Gay Rentals; Bob Lowe of Russell Hampton Inc.; Dawn Mercier of the UPS Store; and Mike O’Connor of Reece & Nichols, O’Connor & Associates.
Ex-officio board members include Edgerton City Council member Heidi Weisman, Gilhaus, and Tom Reiderer, Director of the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation.