Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2005

District decides to pass on bond issue

Patrons responding to questionnairs lukewarm to idea; officials will wait until at least fall

April 28, 2005

Basehor-Linwood school officials will wait until next fall -- or beyond -- before moving forward with any plans on a bond issue for new school construction. Their decision came Tuesday, after school officials reviewed results from a districtwide survey.

"I don't know that we can draw any rash or wild conclusions from these numbers," said Jill Hackett, Basehor-Linwood school superintendent.

¢ A total of 12.4 percent of district patrons responded to a questionnaire about a new school bond issue.

¢ Of those responding, 55 percent said they would not support a bond issue, while 45 percent said they would.

"Right now, I think we should wait and see what September 20 brings us and maybe the next September 20. I would rather go into this with some caution."

Early this month, the school district mailed out 4,292 surveys to each patron in the district, attempting to gauge whether the public would support a $23.3 million bond issue endorsed by the District Advisory Council. School officials received only 532 responses, a return rate of 12.4 percent.

Of those returned, approximately 55 percent indicated they would not support the bond issue, while 45 percent indicated they would. Most people who voiced dissent against the bond issue indicated paying higher taxes as their primary reason for opposition.

Hackett said she was disappointed with the returns and didn't think it was wise to judge the potential for the bond issue solely on those numbers. Perhaps the timing isn't right, Hackett said, but the plan forged by school officials and DAC members during the last 18 months is still a valid one.

"To have only 12 percent of your people return the survey is a lot lower than the expectation," Hackett said. She added, "I'm still inclined to stick with what the District Advisory Council has recommended. It's economically feasible and it will double our capacity."

The bond issue under consideration would pay for:

  • New construction, minor remodeling and work to the parking lot and sidewalks at Basehor Elementary School.
  • A new kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school at an as-of-yet undetermined location.
  • New construction, minor remodeling and work to the parking lots, sidewalks and track and athletic facilities at Basehor-Linwood Middle School.
  • Adding 10 more classrooms at Linwood Elementary School.

District officials said the bond issue under consideration would accommodate 1,725 more students. The 2002-03 bond issues, both of which were priced at $29.9 million and failed at the polls, would have allowed for 1,303 new students. A major selling point the school district has stressed during recent public discussions has been that the current proposal offers room for 422 more students at approximately $7 million less than the 2002-03 bond questions.

Another possibility under consideration was whether to offer a second question that would provide $3 million to $4 million for new and improved athletic facilities at Basehor-Linwood High School. More than 300 of the survey respondents indicated they would not support the athletic facilities question at this time.

Hackett said the athletic facilities proposal would be dropped from bond issue discussions.

"It would be my opinion that the sports option should be dropped from this bond conversation at this time," she said.

School officials reached the conclusion Tuesday night that before any bond issue is proposed, they must show voters an increase in student enrollment. So far, bond issue talks have been fueled by projections that indicate more than 2,000 homes are in some stage of development right now.

Enrollment numbers are finalized on Sept. 20. School figures indicate that if the end of the school year were today, the district would have 22 fewer students than last year.

"The timing just isn't right," school board president Kerry Muehler said. "We've got to show (voters) numbers."

Hackett said the survey results won't wipe clean the work that has gone into shaping the current bond issue proposal.

"We have a long ways to go," Hackett said. "This has not been a waste of any of our efforts. I'm not discouraged by it. I think the process we went through was important. This shows there is more work that needs to be done."

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