Archive for Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Voters to be asked to OK new school

December 15, 2004

After months of holding meetings, assembling data and hammering out blueprint details, the Lansing School Board on Monday night voted to put a bond issue before voters in early April.

But their work isn't done yet.

"The next move would be to establish a community committee in support of the bond issue," Shelly Gowdy, school board president, said.

The resolution passed Monday plans for a $23.6 million bond issue that would pay for a new K-5 elementary school, an auditorium and instrumental music addition to the existing high school, and site improvements deemed necessary, such as parking and entry road alterations.

Paperwork must be filed with the state to make the election official. The district has turned over much of the paperwork to its financial adviser, Piper Jaffray, said Randal Bagby, Lansing schools superintendent.

Public notice of the bond election will be posted twice in early March.

School Board vice president Shelly Gowdy

School Board vice president Shelly Gowdy

Campaigning will begin prior to public notice. The steering committee in charge of campaigning for the bond will begin meeting in early January, Gowdy said. Jaffray also has experience in campaigning for bonds and will help the district.

Gowdy said she hoped for 78 to 100 people on the all-volunteer crew of campaigners. Committee members would call residents and talk to area groups and clubs and promote the bond whenever possible.

In 2003, the school board conducted a bond election for a $16.8 million proposal that failed. Architectural firm Wilson & Co. cited higher steel costs in particular and higher construction costs in general as part of the higher cost this year. The current proposal also calls for a new K-5 building, rather than the K-3 planned in 2003.

"I think the chances are great," Gowdy said of the bond passing in April. "I think that there are a lot of people in the community who see the need, and after we have helped to educate more people in the community about the needs of the district, they will see that this is a responsible and progressive plan."

Not everyone agrees. Herman Visocsky, who lives within the Lansing school district and spoke at the Monday meeting, called the board's proposal unreasonable, saying it was asking for too much money and that taxpayers couldn't bear the financial burden.

The bonds would be paid off over 20 years, Bagby estimated. Payments would be frontloaded, meaning the property tax levy to pay off the bonds would decrease from over the payback period.

Randal Bagby, Lansing school superintendent

Randal Bagby, Lansing school superintendent

Though he stressed the district still was working with its financial adviser on the numbers, he estimated the initial increase in taxes to pay off the bonds could be 18 mills. That would be an increase of about $200 a year in property taxes for the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

"It's really early still," Bagby said. "There's lots of communicating that we need to do with the public. The first thing we need to do is make sure the public's getting accurate information, not rhetoric or the anecdotal. People tend to throw figures out there all the time, so the first thing that we want to do is inform our public of what it is and how much it is and how it works."

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