October 31, 2014

USD 230 debates bond proposal

Amy Cunningham
acunningham@gardnernews.com

In consideration of a possible upcoming bond issue, on Monday evening the Spring Hill School Board listened to information provided by representatives of the DLR Group, Piper Jaffrey and local citizens.

Andy Anderson, of the DLR Group, apprised the board on recommendations from the USD 230 Long-range Planning Committee.  The committee, made up of community members with meetings facilitated by the DLR Group, endorsed a plan that would have the board place a $34 million bond issue on the ballot in an upcoming election.

The bond would cover an addition that would double the capacity of Prairie Creek Elementary, construction of a new elementary school, conversion of the intermediate school into a sixth-grade center and monies to address deferred maintenance and technology issues.

The maintenance and technology portion of the bond, worth $4 million, would cover items such as roof repair and replacement, HVAC upgrades, parking lot repair and building upkeep that have been placed on hold by the district since 2007.

Board member Chuck Willis was concerned that funds for maintenance on thenew buildings was not included in the proposed bond issue.

“There are items that we need to catch up on now,” Willis said, referencing the deferred maintenance items.  “…When we get these buildings built we’ll already be in the hole. Where we’ll be is, after one year (when the warranties run out on the new buildings) we’ll be behind the eight ball.”

Board member Max Strausbaugh questioned the location of a new elementary as well as holding the mill levy to 21.  Strausbaugh wanted to guarantee that construction of a new school would be in a location where utilities already existed and ensure taxpayers the mill levy would, indeed, remain at 21.

According to Greg Vahrenberg, managing director of PiperJaffray, assessed valuation is expected to remain flat until 2014, then increase by 3 percent  in 2015 through 2016 and increase by 5 percent annually thereafter.  He also pointed out that state aid is expected to be kept at 26 percent in 2010 and increase to 38 percent thereafter.  If these projections hold, he said, the mill levy should stay at 21.

“With all of those assumptions we believe they’re accurate, as a matter of fact, we believe them to be conservative,” Vahrenberg said.

Board member Chris King suggested it might be a good idea to break the bond issue into multiple questions, separating out the deferred maintenance issue from new construction.

District Patron John Carr echoed his sentiment during the public comments section saying, “You don’t buy a new car because you need new tires.  If the bond doesn’t get passed – you should do something about maintenance.  It needs to be generated into the budget and followed.  I think it should be a separate issue.”

Jason Winbolt, community representative from the planning committee said he thought it would be a mistake to separate items on the ballot.

“I think we would run into problems because voters a few years ago decided not to approve the capital outlay (that would have addressed many of the items deferred by the district),” he said.

Looking ahead, board members discussed narrowing down a time frame for putting the bond issue to the voters.

Expand Prairie Creek ES:                     $5.25 million
Construct Elementary School #3:         $21 million
Address All Deferred Maintenance:    $4 million
Address Near Term Technology:          $2.25 million
USD 230 Contingency:              $1.5 million
Total $34 million

Comments

  1. Here are the school mill levies for 2010 as taken from http://rta.jocogov.org/documents/2010%20Mill%20Levy%20Sheet.pdf for 3 local school districts:

    Spring Hill – 65.465
    Gardner/Edgerton – 81.536
    DeSoto – 84.051

    Gardner/Edgerton and DeSoto (where Gilhaus came from) have the two highest mill levies and I believe if you checked state records, these mill levies would be some of the highest in the state, if not the highest.

    I hope citizens start thinking about combining these three school districts to save money in many different ways. Three sets of administrators and the costs for them alone to me would be reason to look at combining districts. We need to look at total number of students and some other statistics and I hope to be able to do that in the weeks ahead.

    Gardner/Edgerton school district (the only district in Jo. County) is already suing the citizens for more money much to my distress. School costs are the highest costs to taxpayers and if you will examine your property tax bill the evidence is right there to substantiate that fact. With these high costs, I still am not satisfied with getting the best bang for my buck. I believe we need to do better – for the students and the taxpayers.

    Just increasing the cost to taxpayers to me is not the answer to the problem. We have got to get smarter and stop any waste, duplication of services, etc. Again, this will not get done unless citizens set the standard and start the process to something better and more affordable. I hope all responsible citizens will think long and hard on this issue and make sound recommendations.

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