Archive for Wednesday, July 17, 2002

School District announces plans for future bond issue

July 17, 2002

A bond referendum for the Basehor-Linwood School District is on the horizon because of current and potential growth within the district's boundaries.

School Superintendent Cal Cormack presented a year's worth of information about growth in the school district during the School Board meeting Monday, July 15.

The School Board has been discussing growth, school over crowding and the need for facility improvements for the past year.

Board members are now taking their findings to the public in preparation for a bond initiative.

"We are collectively ready to move on with it," said Kerry Mueller, board president.

Although the board did not approve a final bond amount Monday night, it has identified four areas that a bond would finance construction of a new middle school, the expansion of Basehor and Glenwood Ridge elementary schools and the renovation of Linwood Elementary School.

The decision was based on current and potential growth in the district houses already built and plans already approved or submitted to city and county governments, Cormack said.

One of those areas of growth is in the boundaries of the Basehor Elementary School.

The latest enrollment figure at BES was 361. The school has a maximum capacity of 411.

There are at least six subdivisions in various planning stages in the Basehor area. And many of the elementary-age children living in those developments would attend BES, Cormack said.

If the school district's current growth projections are correct approximately .53 students per new home then enrollment at BES could be close to 850 students when the new homes are occupied.

There are 353 homes (including homes that will be developed) in the Glenwood Ridge attendance area.

GES has a maximum capacity of 360. However, Cormack said it's a general understanding that a school facility can only comfortably maintain 85 percent of its maximum capacity before quality of education is affected. The 85 percent capacity is 306 at GRE.

The school district expects, based on current calculations, residential development will increase GRE's enrollment to 333 in the next few years. There is also growth in Linwood, although those numbers will not have a large impact on the schools overall attendance. However, all the growth in the district will affect the combination facility of Linwood Elementary School and Basehor-Linwood Middle School.

Because the facility is older, classrooms are not built to house additional students.

Those buildings need renovation, bringing them up to the standards of the other buildings in the district, Cormack said.

Combined, the maximum student capacity is 726, with an 85 percent capacity of 500. Growth is expected to increase the enrollment at the schools to 615 students combined. Currently, 435 students are at those facilities.

Enrollment also will be affected at BLMS if the board approves a three-year middle school program moving sixth-graders from elementary school to the middle school.

The high school is the one facility that can weather the growth, although attendance will grow close to the 85 percent capacity level.

Current enrollment at BLHS is 575. If all the residential homes under construction and on the planning boards were occupied, enrollment at the high school would increase to 927 students.

Maximum capacity at the school is 1,136, with an 85 percent capacity of 960.

Because it takes a few years to plan, develop, get approval and implement a bond initiative, the School Board wants to move forward before schools become overcrowded.

"We cannot accommodate the kind of growth we're looking at with our current facilities," Cormack said.

"We cannot wait until we're overcrowded because we're looking at a four-year cycle, which is the quickest time, for a bond (issue)," he added.

Board member Patrick Jeannin said he expects the school district to experience some rapid development based on what he has seen in the area.

When attending Tonganoxie High School in the '70s, Jeannin played against Blue Valley High School in basketball.

More than 20 years later, Blue Valley has four (6A) high schools.

Jeannin did not know whether Basehor-Linwood would end up like Blue Valley, but he did think the school district was going to experience change, and he wants to be prepared for it.

Board member Chris Claflin said Leavenworth County is one of the last outer rim areas close to Kansas City that is still developable.

Cormack agreed, saying "There are people who drive 50 miles to work from Gardner area and I think the county's proximity is inviting development."

"You can already see the growth and it's not going to stop," he said.

If recent history is any indication, bond issues in Basehor and Linwood have not fared well.

Before the school district received approval from voters in 1997, a bond issue for the renovation of Basehor-Linwood High School and parts of Basehor-Linwood Middle School failed five times.

After voters approved the bond, construction began in 1998 and ended in 2001.

The current bond was to be about 17 mills a mill is $1 per $1,000 assessed property valuation but it started at 16.9 mills in 1998.

According to the school district, that figure has decreased to 9.5 mills because the tax base expanded and property valuations increased in the district.

Valuation for the district has increased from $50 to $66 million in four years. The district expects, when official numbers are released in October, that overall valuation will be $ 72.5 million for each $100,000 in value a new home has, it adds $11,500 to the district's valuation.

When the district posed the bond issue in 1997, financial analysts projected the valuation to increase at 5 percent each year. The valuation actually has increased by 9 percent each year, allowing the bond portion of the mill levy to decrease.

Using that same guideline, if the school district was to obtain a new bond at $25 million and combined it with the current bond, Cormack said, the mill levy portion of the bond would be at 21.5 mills at the beginning 4.6 mills higher than when the first bond issue was implemented in 1998.

The projected cost of the current bond in 2003 is $104.88 per year or $8.75 a month on a $100,000 house. The first year of the combined $25 million bond would raise that cost to $247.25 per year or $20.60 a month an increase of $11.86 per month.

However, this number can be affected by commercial growth in the city. There are several commercial developments in the works, which some board members said would change the tax structure in the district.

Cormack said the $25 million was a figure the district used as an example. It was not the final bond figure.

However, this example is close to what the district is looking at for construction.

The School Board is expected to come closer to establishing a final bond amount at its workshop meeting July 29, when members meet with financial advisors.

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