February 14, 2016

USD 231 unveils plans for new school buildings

Editor’s Note: The attached master plan for new schools is an updated version of the one seen here previously.

Masterplans Option 2B

Danedri Thompson

School officials asked Gardner City Council members to commit to partially fund infrastructure for a new elementary school and a new middle school Wednesday night.

Bill Miller, USD 231 Director of Operations, unveiled two design proposals for a bond issue that would build a new middle school and a new elementary school between Plum Creek and Willow Springs subdivisions in Gardner.

He asked the council commit to help fund $3.5 million in infrastructure upgrades necessary to bring the project to fruition.

Both proposals would require that Grand Street be extended east of Gardner Road to connect to Moonlight Road. Both would also require upgrades to the existing sewer system.
USD 231 owns land adjacent to Pioneer Ridge Middle School, which is located on the northwest side of town, Miller said the district is rapidly growing on the south east side of town where high density, multi-family housing exists.

“We did a boundary analysis to put students near Pioneer Ridge,” he said. “We would have to reach so far into south Gardner, it wouldn’t work.”

Moonlight Elementary School on the southeast side of town has reached its capacity, and a portion of its student population is being served by trailers next to the school building. Wheatridge Middle School is currently serving 38 more students than the building was designed to handle. By 2014, Pioneer Ridge Middle School and Madison Elementary will also reach capacity.

School board member Mark Grannell said the growth projections the district is using are conservative estimates.

The growth we are anticipating here is based on historical trends,” he said. “It’s not due to houses being built. The need for the school is right now. It’s not dependent on building permits.”

Miller explained school officials used a demographer and based its projections on 3-5 percent growth each year – less growth than the statistical average over the course of the last decade.

For example, the district saw 8.2 percent growth between 2003 and 2004. Between 2004 and 2005, they district grew 5.6 percent. At its lowest point over the course of the last 8 years, the school’s size jumped 4.8 percent. On average, enrollment increased 6.2 percent per year for the last 8 years.

Miller said there are funding mechanisms in place that would assist the city in funding a Grand Street extension and sewer upgrades. By 2015, he explained, the Walmart tax-increment financing (TIF) should expire.

The TIF requires that all Walmart property taxes and sales taxes be used to pay infrastructure related to the Walmart retail development. Additionally, Miller said, the half-cent sales tax should pay off the Gardner Aquatic Center and Celebration Park by 2015 as well.

However, Mayor Dave Drovetta explained, the half cent sales tax will sunset in 2015 and to renew it would require the approval of voters.

Also, the funds derived from the TIF expiration are supposed to cut the 6.5 mill tax increase Gardner citizens received this year.

“We’re in the position of feeling the need to eliminate spending and not add debt,” Drovetta said.
Superintendent Bill Gilhaus said school officials feel pressure to keep costs down as well, but that needs to be balanced with the need to deliver a “world class education” to Gardner students.

“We have had the highest mill levy in the state,” Gilhaus said. “The pressure goes both ways.”
Council member Steve Hale said the location is logical and ideal. And, he said, in the past the city has been a willing and eager partner in building new schools.

“But now there’s another part of the equation, and that’s that the city is broke,” Hale said.

However, if district voters approve a bond issue for the new schools, he said it’s the city’s responsibility to put the infrastructure in place.

Miller said the Grand Street extension and upgrades to the sewer system are already listed on the city’s capital improvement plan. The district is simply asking the city to move those projects to the top of the list.

Drovetta said many of the projects on the city’s list are currently unfunded, and some aren’t identified as projects.

“We would be moving a project that doesn’t exist (the Grand Street extension) to replace a project that isn’t funded,” he said.

The sewer funding would also be a challenge, city public works director David Greene said.

About four projects worth $6 million would need to be completed so the sewer system could support a school at that location.

“Those projects have been deferred to 2015, because the city can’t take on any more debt,” he said. “…There’s four years of debt service that the city doesn’t have the ability to pay.”

Gilhaus pressed the council to make a commitment quickly – preferably before a new council is seated following the April 5 election. He worried that it would take four to five months for a new council to have the knowledge to make such a large decision.

“We would like a decision within three-to-four weeks,” Gilhaus said.

Councilman Hale, who isn’t running to retain his seat, and council member Brian Broxterman, whose term expires in 2013, said they wouldn’t feel comfortable saddling a new council with such a decision.

“We’re so close to the election, they should be involved in the decision,” Broxterman said.
Hale said whether the project moves forward would be up to the voters.

“Let’s see how much pain our constituents are willing to take to make this good thing happen,” he said.

Voters in the Gardner Edgerton School District will be asked to approve a $60 to $70 million bond issue to build the schools. Gilhaus wouldn’t say how much that would increase the school district mill levy, however he said it would be more than a 2 mill increase.


  1. Well, right off hand, I would like to tell the School Board/District and the city of Gardner to both go jump in Gardner Lake.

    The city of Gardner has more than tripled our city indebtedness in the past 10 years by their cronyism government. How many times has our city approved one apartment or low cost housing complex with tax credits for developers and resulting in increase of kids we cannot afford to educate because they also continue to give away our tax revenue for the special interests while giving us a higher tax bill since the responsibile, middle class people are the only ones paying the bills. Time after time the city of Gardner has taken care of the special interests with sweet deals for the developers and big biz which results in loss of tax revenue and HUGE LOSS OF SCHOOL TAX DOLLARS. Why in the Sam Hill would I be enjoying the loss of $7 MILLION+ in tax revenue from that Walmart TIF so Walmart, who I believe is the biggest retailer in the WORLD, can get by with not paying for their development costs and I certainly have no respect for the worthless politicians who allowed that to happen. Then we have the sweet deals for TradeNet, 21 local business owners, US Reit II (Coleman) resulting in huge loss of tax dollars and again the biggest majority being school tax dollars. And a Gardner City Council was ready to pay between $4 to $7 Million to Lowe’s for their development costs and have the responsible citizens pay for that – Lowe’s can pay their own development costs – I had to pay all of mine when I have purchased homes. And dear ole Drovetta was willing to give away 85% of our tax revenue for the benefit of BNSF and the Allen Group and in the end Edgerton gave away 75% of the tax revenue for the jaybirds. And all the while the lovely school district does absolutely nothing to protect their school families from this financial rape other than to say I wish you wouldn’t do that. That school board and school district can sue the people for more dollars when they should be suing the city of Gardner and Edgerton and Johnson County for approving these sweel deals which results in the loss of a good BILLION DOLLARS over the years resulting in higher and higher and higher taxes for the average citizens. Then you have 38 business entities in the New Century complex, most which haven’t paid a dime in taxes and your lovely Johnson County government won’t even give you a report of how those tax exemptions came about, what the exemption are or when they will end. All of those business entities are within our shcool district but you don’t see your School Dist. or School Board even lift a finger to get that corporate welfare stopped and it may be going on for 40 years – don’t you wish you didn’t have to pay any property taxes for 40 years or perhaps longer?????

    Lees Summit recently turned down a bond issue for their school district and it should certainly happen here in my opinion until the cities and the county get their heads on straight and realize we have NO MONEY and we can’t afford to keep taking care of the thieves – it is time for the people to be served and protected. When Gilhaus and the USD 231 School Board told me I would have to pay up to $150 to answer my ONE question about the number of dropouts is the day they lost all of my respect and support I had given for years and for my whole life to one school district or another because I believe in education so much. The citizens need to combine the school districts of DeSoto, Gardner/Edgerton and Spring Hill for starters to save money in my opinion and cut down on the administrative costs, etc. and get rid of the arrogant, worhtless respresentation we have had at both the city and school district arenas.

    Every citizen can make their minds up but I know one thing for sure – THEY WILL NOT BE GETTING MY VOTE FOR A SCHOOL BOND OR FOR THE CITY OF GARDNER TO PAY FOR INFRASTRUCTURE. We cannot afford it and until those bureaucrats and elected officials can start working for the people, they will not get my support.

  2. I failed to mention the Kimberly-Clark handout Johnson County gave to them wherein they were supposed to be paying 50% of their taxes but were only paying 25% since good ole Kutak-Rock submitted the incorrect amount on the papers sent to the State Board of TAx Appeals and Johnson County and County Appraiser Welcome should have both caught that error if they were doing their jobs rather than continuing the rubber stamp government I see everywhere. When that tax incentive was given to Kimberly-Clark the School Board told me they were objecting to that incentive and yet the County told me they had just talked to Gilhaus who said they were not objecting the incentive and the day of the public hearing with the Jo. Co. Commissioners, Annabeth Surbaugh, the Chairman, stated: If the school district is not here to object to this incentive then I see no reason why we should not give it. Right there your school district/school board didn’t serve the financial interests of their school families in my opinion. And the bureaucrats and the bond counsel sure didn’t serve the citizens interests with that 25% error. When that error was caught over $1 Million dollars of tax revenue was given to the citizens as they rightly should have.

    And good ole Kutak-Rock was Johnny on the Spot last night and attended this meeting because they sure want to be the company selling the bonds so they can enhance their bank account. As I said before, I would like to take all of these jerks who don’t work for me, an average citizen, and throw them in Gardner Lake because they sure need to clean up their acts.

  3. Zone a bunch of low rent apartments and see the school needs explode with little tax base added.

  4. So Judith, realistically, what do we do when all the school are maxed out, we are almost there? I don’t want the city to go into more debt just as much as you, but how do we balance our children’s education?

  5. For starters you have all entities pay their full taxes so you will have the money for education which is so important which is much unlike you and your bunch and the Drovettites who always want to take care of the cronies and tell them they don’t have to pay their taxes or like your co-hort Clark who hasn’t paid his full taxes since 2005. Then you might be looking to consolidating districts to save money and stop spending so much money on sports and spend the money where it should go and that is to academics. You also keep your spending within your means which hasn’t been done by the school district or the city for years. Then you might want to control your growth as Boulder and other cities have done in the past to match what their capabilities are. And like I said get those 38 blood sucking companies in New Century to pay their taxes. Don’t let investors, builders or developers have their vacant land be appraised as ag land but as commercial vacant as it should be and you would see the dollars we need. The owner of the Conestoga Park here in Gardner has 80 acres of trailers and collects rents on each one of those lots and the owner is an investment company. To me that is a business and should be paying taxes as a commercial entity and not getting by as a residential entity as the legislators set up in the early 90’s by changing the state constitution and more than likely to satisfy some special interest – I have been trying to get that changed too but lots of luck getting that done since the politicians don’t work for me or other average citizens. Read the following article from the Denver Post dated March 9, 2011 and know this is going on right here in your backyard and you too are losing tax revenue like crazy in the same manner.


    Appraiser David Niles of the Jefferson County assessor’s office looks for signs of farming activity on vacant land off U.S. 36 in Jefferson County that is taxed as agricultural, receiving a significant tax break. In some cases, land designation has gone back and forth. (Joe Amon | The Denver Post)
    Southeast of Aurora. Agricultural land owned by South Quincy Residential in unincorporated Arapahoe County comes right up against a housing development. One lot a little more than a tenth of an acre has an annual tax bill of $1.66. (Google Images )Related
    Mar 7:
    In Colorado, some famous faces, names get ag-land tax breaks, too
    Mar 4:
    Adams County assessor proposes big increases to taxable land values on properties in Post report
    Feb 3:
    Retooling vacant-land taxes urged as developers seize on ag breaks
    Jan 31:
    Legislative panel Oks reviving ag tax exemption
    Jan 7:
    Legislation aims to minimize Colorado’s ag-land tax breaks
    Jan 2:
    Cherry Hills Village properties are fertile ground for tax breaks
    Dec 29:
    Colorado energy companies often able to take advantage of lower agricultural tax rate
    Dec 17:
    Ag label lands Hick a lower tax
    Dec 3:
    “Recreational property” reaping a truckload of ag-tax benefits
    Nov 21:
    Acres of tax breaks provide fertile harvest on land surrounding DIA
    Nov 8:
    Colo. lawmakers urged to stop abuse of ag-land tax statusFirst of two parts

    One of the biggest players in Douglas County agriculture, at least for tax purposes, is not in the business of growing wheat or grazing cattle.

    It builds subdivisions.

    About one in six of the county’s parcels taxed as agricultural are owned by subsidiaries of Denver home builder MDC Holdings Inc.

    In Broomfield County, another hotbed of suburban growth, a staggering 95 percent of the county’s agricultural parcels are controlled by developer, commercial or investor interests. No one owns more land on the agricultural tax rolls there than Pulte Homes of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., the nation’s largest homebuilder.

    From Denver’s outskirts to exclusive mountain communities, the

    The findings: View the Post analyzed agricultural land data in nine Front Range counties.
    Got a tip? The Post has been investigating the use and abuse of the agricultural tax designation. If you know of a story to pursue, contact us at 303-893-TIPS (8477) or toll-free at 866-748- TIPS, or e-mail us at TIPS@denverpost.com.
    story line is similar. Developers and corporations more interested in bulldozing land for houses and strip malls than raising cattle or crops are saving millions of dollars in taxes by taking advantage of a state law meant to help struggling farmers.

    A Denver Post investigation of property-tax records sheds new light on the extent of the practice: Developers and firms with little or no ties to actual farming own at least 40 percent of the nearly 54,000 parcels classified as agricultural in eight Front Range counties.

    The lenient tax structure saves developers, businesses and others who have no real mud on their boots an estimated $366 million a year in those counties, according to a Post analysis using data from CoStar Group, a Washington-based commercial real estate research firm.

    In 10 mountain counties analyzed by The Post, developers and others that don’t meet the traditional definition of farmer or rancher own at least 9 percent of the 23,244 agricultural parcels.

    The practice has continued unabated even though assessors have been complaining for decades. The latest proposed fix making its way through the legislature makes only marginal changes and would have no effect on how developers use ag

    East of Castle Rock.Land taxed as agricultural surrounds a subdivision near Franktown. The parcel is among more than 1,000 Douglas County ag parcels owned by a subsidiary of Denver homebuilder MDC Holdings. (The Denver Post)taxation.

    An array of special interests finds common cause in keeping the status quo — from farmers who fear any weakening of the law to high-end resorts and homebuilders who contend higher taxes on undeveloped land will lead to higher home prices.

    “The constituencies that currently benefit from the tax break don’t want a change,” said state Rep. Matt Jones, a Louisville Democrat. “And there’s not a strong constituency for the average taxpayer.”

    Jones, a member of the House agriculture committee, said The Post’s findings show the issue deserves more attention.

    “All taxpayers should pay their way, and developers should not get a big ag exemption when they’re holding property for speculation,” he said.

    East of Thornton Boxed in by homes in Adams County sit 86 acres owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc. The media conglomerate pays about $86 in property taxes annually on those ag holdings. (The Denver Post)Along the Front Range, big business also turns to the ag designation to slash tax bills — including the Clear Channel radio and communications conglomerate, Denver’s Furniture Row Cos. and IBM.

    Former Gov. Dick Lamm, who held the office in the 1980s when voters approved a constitutional change that allows the ag tax breaks, thinks new restrictions are warranted.

    “I think it is a shame, and it adds to sprawl,” Lamm said. “It is unfair, and it unjustly enriches people. It allows people to tie up land under so-called agriculture and use it as a speculator’s device.”

    The financial impact depends on how counties navigate Colorado’s tax limitation system. In some counties, the money would go to lower everyone

    Outside Centennial Dove Valley Business Park Associates owns about 64 agricultural lots of about 5 acres each near the Denver Broncos practice facility in Arapahoe County. One 3.6-acre parcel had a property tax bill of $68. (The Denver Post)else’s property taxes. In others, the extra money would flow into the general funds of counties, special districts and any other taxing entity — and to school districts.

    The state budget is also affected because the state must step up and help finance school districts when local tax revenue can’t cover the cost.

    Developers defend their use of the agricultural tax break, saying it gives them flexibility while they wait for an ailing real estate market to rebound. They also say the tax break lowers the costs of new homes and predict they’ll have to pass increased costs on to homebuyers if the system is abolished.

    “I don’t think the objective of Colorado policy ought to be to make homes less affordable,” said Steve

  6. Looks like the legislature in Kansas right now is looking at a bill to limit 1 Superintendent per 10,000 students which I feel definitely should happen and which I have been recommending by the combining of three local school districts. Go to http://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/morning_call/2011/03/proposal-would-limit-number-of-school.html?s=newsletter&ed=2011-03-11&ana=e_wich_rdup to read about this. Since we only have around 4,500 students in USD 231 School Dist. we need to be making changes to get more bang for our bucks and to cut costs.

    Cut the wasteful spending and have all entities pay their taxes would solve lots and lots of problems but what worthless politicians and handout kings will be wanting to do that. Right now big biz and others want to eliminate the coporate income tax in Kansas which should never happen but I bet that legislature will give that present to the big boys and all gift wrapped for them. They had their business personal property tax eliminated here a few years ago – they won’t be satisfied until they have eliminted all taxes on them – they are more than happy to transfer their tax burden to the middle class. Election coming up – you might want to know what your candidates stand for and if it will be for your best interests. When the candidates start sidestepping issues or giving you the generalities of “broaden our tax base” or stonewalling or giving you the bull hockey or aren’t informed and educated on issues, then you might wonder if they are worthy of your vote.

  7. I note the school district doesn’t say a word about what the costs will be to pay for teachers and other personnel for these two schools plus all of the equipment, benefits, pensions, maintenance, etc., etc. Guess that money will come from the fairy godmother or perhaps they will want to not allow employees the right to collective bargaining……….that will be next along with elimination of KPERs, etc., etc. And then Drovetta will tell us again that Gardner is open for business and business entities only have to pay 20% of their taxes or perhaps it will come to the point only the citizens will be paying the taxes, that is the ones who pay their taxes………..you have to love it….gets better every day………also I like how that $60 to $70 Million school bond will end up costing the citizens probably more like $100 Million when you pay the interest and pay for the Kutak Rock vultures and last but not least we need to EXPAND our district athletic complex – I knew that one would be coming…………

  8. Victorville, Ca. is another town where in 2005 BNSF came calling and then left them high and dry after the citizens had spent millions of dollars. They have and are having huge financial problems and only have their city employees working a 4 day week. Here is an article today on that city – citizens should be very interested in how their city is being operated or you could end up like this one.


  9. Gardner parent says:

    Take a look at the proposed sight for the new complex. Who owns the land and do they have connections to the school board and or City. It is real close to the train tracks so it is very doubtful that they would ever drop a housing development there, so what else could it be used for. Take a little drive down Grand street from moonlight, If it continues on its current path electrical feeder lines will have to be moved.. this is probably why they never finished it anyway. And why would you build another Elementary school within walking distance of the one that is overcrowded. Kind of like building a second high school on the land on the corner of Waverly and 175th. So stop bending to those who want their kids to go to this school or that school and change the boundaries. You have done it in the past so let do it now.

  10. Hold on, the sucking sound you hear is the souund of money being sucked out of your pocket.

  11. Three of the six elementary schools were built in the last decade. The seventh to be built is based on current need rather than speculation. That is extremely poor planning.

    The TIF with Walmart and the City’s half cent sales tax both expire in 2015. Better get to laying some brick.

  12. 1. I guarantee they haven’t considered paying their high school football coach or his staff of 12 less $…incidentally the coach makes six figures. BUT WE NEED MORE OF YOUR $$$ FOR EDUCATION. Wouldn’t that money be better spent in the classroom? How many teachers could the district hire? How many “weight coaches” does one football team need?

    2. I guarantee that, in addition to a new practice field in the bond issue, they will try adding turf to the football field…pay attention because they’ll try to slip that one in. BUT WE NEED MORE OF YOUR $$$ FOR EDUCATION.

    3. Why the heck would they worry about placing an elementary school so close to another elementary school to educate children from the neighborhood when the district already busses kids allover based on their socioeconomic status? Kids from old Gardner are bussed to Nike Elementary when Gardner Elementary and Madison Elementary are nearby and close. BUT WE NEED MORE OF YOUR $$$ FOR EDUCATION.

    4. Since they already own land at Pioneer Ridge Middle School and they bus kids allover the district, why don’t they consider building there? BUT WE NEED MORE OF YOUR $$$ FOR EDUCATION.

    5. How much $$$ does Superintendent Gilhouse make? I *think* it is around $140,000…and don’t forget his top-heavy administration all making over $100,000. BUT WE NEED MORE OF YOUR $$$ FOR EDUCATION.

    6. How much is the school district spending to participate in the Schools for Fair Funding lawsuit against the state? That’s right, they are suing YOU! BUT WE NEED MORE OF YOUR $$$ FOR EDUCATION. Wouldn’t that money be better spent in the classroom? Let other districts fight it out in court…although I think schools already get enough money.

  13. Wow Judith says:

    Wow Judith, it seems as if you have a lot of hate for Gardner and those running it…. Any reason why you don’t just move?

  14. Gilhaus makes nearly if not more than $230,000 annually

  15. @consolidate says:

    Wow! That takes my breath away. I hope they do pass the consolidation law.

  16. Alexander student at GEHS says:

    i think its great were getting new computers but why more stuff for athletics i think our schools accreditation is much more important then football personnel y i want to go to college so i think all that money should go to academic equipment and not expanding the weight room and renovating the football stadium and not putting turf down my god we have grass for a reason. that is my take we just wasted good folks money right there.

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