Archive for Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Bond issue back on the ballot

School Board places $29.9 million package on April ballot

February 5, 2003

Despite failing at the polls just weeks ago, Basehor-Linwood voters will again decide the fate of a proposed bond issue during the general election April 1.

During a meeting Monday, Feb. 3, the Basehor-Linwood School Board unanimously approved placing the $29.9 million bond issue -- the same package voted on during a special election in January -- on the April ballot.

The funds would pay for the construction of a new Basehor-Linwood Middle School and renovations to Basehor, Glenwood Ridge and Linwood elementaries.

The bond package was offered to voters Jan. 21 and defeated, 997 to 695.

However, school officials feel one reason the package was defeated is because voter turnout was low. In 1997, a successful bond election for Basehor-Linwood, 700 more people voted than in January.

School Board president Kerry Mueller said in speaking with community members she believes an April vote could bring more people to the polls.

"The consensus given to me is that voter turnout would be better in April," Mueller said.

She also stood behind again placing the same package in front of voters April 1.

"This board has focused on providing a solution that focuses on education," she said. "This is curriculum driven, not facilities driven."

"The information I have tells me this is still the best plan we can offer," School Board member Pat Jeannin added.

School officials said the need for the new school construction stems from overcrowding problems at Basehor and Glenwood Ridge elementaries, and at the Linwood facility, which houses elementary and middle school students.

A boom in residential development in Basehor, Linwood and rural Leavenworth County is causing the overcrowding, school officials said.

School officials released the following figures Monday night, evidence, they said, of the overcrowding problems in the district:

  • At Basehor Elementary School, the maximum student capacity is 411 students. The current enrollment is 391 students, for a 95.1 percent usage of the facility.
  • At Glenwood Ridge Elementary School, the maximum student capacity is 306 students. Enrollment is currently at 301 students, equaling a 98.3 percent usage.
  • The combined capacity at the middle/elementary school facility in Linwood is 500 students. The combined enrollment is 462 students, resulting in a 92.4 percent usage.

"That's important information," said Cal Cormack, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent. "That's as of tonight and without the most recent growth."

Before making its decision Monday night, the School Board met Thursday, Jan. 30, with members of the public to discuss adding the bond proposal to the April ballot.

Sandra Clarke, a bond issue opponent, said the proposal is overzealous and would place a burden on taxpayers in tough economic times.

"You can get so overzealous sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees," Clarke said.

" And I think your timing, frankly, sucks," Clarke added.

If the bond issue is approved, it would add $172.16 in taxes to a $100,000 home.

And the voters resounding 'no' vote in January should have been enough for school officials to place new school construction on hold, opponents said.

But it's those other options, such as increasing class sizes or adding modular classrooms, that school officials are hoping to avoid.

"It's hard enough teaching a classroom of first-graders," School Board member Don Kleoppel said. "I just can't imagine going from 24 (students per classroom) to 30, which is what we're looking at if we don't do something."

A recently proposed bill in the Kansas Legislature could also have bearing on the new April bond issue vote.

On Jan. 24, state representatives Kathe Decker and William Mason proposed House Bill 2058, which would cease all state payments for new school construction after July 1.

As of now, the state pays approximately 33 percent for all new school construction, meaning if the bond issue was approved, the state would pay approximately $10.2 million for the construction in Basehor-Linwood.

"If (the bonds) are in place by June 30, then they will receive state attention," Cormack said.

And if the bill is put into law without a voter approved bond issue?

"Then the burden for new construction would fall entirely on the district," Cormack added.

However, a similar bill proposed during last year's legislative hearings was defeated and the current bill would most likely be challenged in court if approved, school officials concede.

If the current bond issue is voted down in April, another bond vote could not be called until November. State laws preclude conducting more than one special election in a year.

"By putting this back on the ballot, we're going to make some people mad and we're going to make some people happy," Jeannin said.

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