Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bond issue’s price tag put at $39.9 million

June 13, 2007

Voters in the Basehor-Linwood School District will be asked in October to approve a $39.9 million bond issue for new schools.

The school board on Monday approved a resolution that calls for submitting a $39.9 million special question by mail ballot to voters this fall. Last month, board members accepted a distict committee's plan for the bond issue proposal and scheduled a mail-in referendum for October. Monday's action put a price tag on the plan.

Superintendent Bob Albers estimated ballots will be mailed out around Sept. 21.

"There is a five-week period between when the ballots are mailed out and when they are counted," he said. "Ballots have to be back by Oct. 25."

If approved, the district will use the funds to construct a new kindergarten through fifth grade, 435-student elementary school to serve the northern part of the district, a centrally located sixth through eighth grade, 700-student middle school, additions to Glenwood Ridge Elementary School, renovations to Linwood Elementary School and a soccer complex in proximity of the high school.

These plans are similar to what the facilities planning committee presented to the board May 14.

Working out details

Gordon Kimble from Horst, Terrill and Karst Architects, and John McArthur, the district's financial adviser from Oppenheimer Funds, met with board members in a work session prior to the decision.

Debate during the session revolved around how large the facilities could be while keeping the total bond amount down.

Members discussed various capacities for the elementary school.

While a 300-student elementary school would keep costs lower, board members were concerned that it might not be large enough to accommodate future growth. But a 500-student school may not be the most cost efficient.

"I don't think the 300-student elementary school is big enough," school board president Randy Cunningham said. "I think we're getting ourselves in trouble by building it."

The maximum students per classroom for kindergarten through second grade is 24 while third through fifth is 28.

Cunningham also reminded board members that all-day kindergarten was on the horizon for the district. Classrooms that once were used for extra activities will soon need to be designated for kindergarten classes.

Board members decided to try exploring a middle-of-the-road number for the elementary school capacity. School board member Doug Bittel also asked whether the school could be built like GRES, which was originally designed to be added onto at a later date as needed. Kimble said buildings could be designed at no extra cost for future additions.

Other ideas on how to keep costs down were discussed, including possibly omitting the renovations to LES or the soccer complex.

However board members were confident the renovations to LES would not cost any votes because there is such a need for them.

If the referendum is approved, the current joint elementary school and middle school building in Linwood would need to be reconfigured as an elementary-only school.

As for the soccer complex, some board members saw it as a selling point for the bond issue.

"There are a lot of people in this community that would like to have some soccer fields," Bittel said. "I think a lot of families would come out and vote for it to get some decent soccer fields."

Getting a yes vote

Methods for obtaining "yes" votes for the bond issue were also discussed.

For starters, the board agreed to a mail-in ballot for the special election. Historically, voter turnout has been scant for general elections, special elections fare even worse.

But the idea behind a mail-in ballot is high turnout because of their convenience. Voters don't have to make a special trip to the polls or wait in line to vote. They'll will simply mark the ballot, sign the outside of the envelope and drop it in a mailbox. Postage is already taken care of.

McArthur said his experiences with mail-in ballots in the past have been positive.

"It's so simple for them (voters) if they would just do it," he said. "It's a more expensive route to go, but they really don't have an excuse not to mark it."

Albers said the district will soon launch a campaign to encourage district patrons to register to vote, followed by informational meetings in August and September to educate the community on what is being asked for and why the district needs it using a bond information committee.

Committee members will follow up with voters during the five-week mail-in ballot period to remind them to send in their ballots.

"We will use the facilities planning committee as a nucleus," Albers said, "then ask them to recommend or ask other people to be a part of the bond information committee. We will try to get as many people involved in that as we possibly can."

In other action Monday night, the school board:

  • Approved, 6-0, Board Policy Chapter G: Part II for second reading and Policy DJCA for first reading.
  • Approved, 6-0, teaching contracts for Stacey Ward, Basehor-Linwood Middle School language arts, and Jean Yates, Basehor Elementary School first grade.
  • Met in executive session for about two hours to discuss non-elected personnel and acquisition of real property.
  • Approved, 6-0, classified salaries for 2007-2008.
  • Approved, 6-0, administrative salaries for 2007-2008.

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