Archive for Thursday, July 21, 2005

November vote set on school bonds

School officials seek voter OK for $22.9 million issue to finance elementary school, other work

July 21, 2005

Basehor-Linwood school district officials spent nearly four hours Monday night in a war-room like meeting discussing options and plans for a proposed bond issue for new school construction.

While administrators, school board members and architects emerged from the meeting with several key issues still unresolved, they did agree to a major point in their plan of attack.

The campaign, a multi-pronged plan that essentially boils down to "let's education and inform," begins now.

The board unanimously approved Monday night a resolution that calls for posing a $22.9 million question to voters on Nov. 1. If approved -- and judging by the district's history of rejecting bond issues, that's a big if -- the funds would pay for a new elementary school as well as expansions and renovations to existing schools.

"It's the most cost-efficient proposal that could be drafted and has a positive influence on each facility in the district," Superintendent Jill Hackett said, noting that only Basehor-Linwood High School would be unaffected by the bond issue.

It comes as no surprise that the school district is posing the bond issue. For two years, school officials and members of the District Advisory Council have worked toward developing a plan for expansion. "Everyone has had the opportunity to come to a DAC meeting," Hackett said. "It's not been developed in isolation. It's been a community-developed plan."

The proposal has not only the endorsement of the school board and the DAC, but also numerous Basehor and Linwood community members who've been at the center of lobbying efforts by the school district and bond issue supporters.

"Feedback has been positive," Hackett said. "They feel it's probably the most you can purchase for the money required.

Overall, the district has reached a general consensus that the plan is an economically responsible answer to handling a growth surge expected to come with new residential developments being built within district boundaries.

According to school district research, 3,070 homes are approved for building and more than 1,050 additional homes are in the planning stage. Using a 0.43 students per home formula, the district could see an infusion of 1,320 new students in coming years.

School officials point out that the current bond issue proposal allows for an expansion of 1,725 students -- double the district's current capacity -- for approximately $7 million less than the last two $29.9 million bond issues proposed to voters in 2003. The $22.9 million will fund 54 new classrooms.

While the bond issue itself shouldn't come as a shock to voters, the school district's approval of a Nov. 1 ballot date could be seen as surprising. In previous discussions, school officials said they would wait until Sept. 20 enrollment numbers were finalized before settling an election date.

Hackett said it appears new developments are filling in with residents quickly and waiting until enrollment numbers are available puts the district "farther and farther behind the eight-ball" in adequately handling the new growth.

Also, as district architects have pointed out, construction costs will continue to escalate and the longer the district waited, the higher the price could become for new schools. By proposing the bond issue early, the school district can stay ahead of that curve, Hackett said.

Two essential ingredients to the bond issue proposal are, as-of-yet, unresolved: the location of the proposed new elementary school and whether the vote will take place using a traditional or mail in ballot.

School officials will discuss those two issues Thursday, July 28, during an annual leadership seminar on the Kansas University campus in Lawrence.

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