The bad news about the Lawrence school bond issue approved Tuesday is that it could be two years or more before the new schools it will finance are completed.
The good news is that the bond issue won't affect local property tax bills until next November. And even then, the local mill levy could end up being lower than it is now.
The $29.9 million bond issue will finance the construction of two new elementary schools and a fourth junior high school. It also will finance the renovation of Lawrence High School and Central Junior High School and the expansion of Wakarusa Valley School.
One elementary school will be built on property southwest of the T-intersection of Clinton Parkway and Inverness Road. That school will absorb enrollment growth in west Lawrence and help reduce enrollment at Quail Run, Schwegler and perhaps other west Lawrence schools.
The junior high school will be built on the same site as the new west Lawrence elementary school. The other elementary school will replace India School and will be built on district-owned property in southeast Lawrence.
Craig Fiegel, the district's director of business and facilities, said the new junior high school probably won't be open by fall of 1994.
"THAT WOULD really take a lot of luck like no winter," Fiegel said. He said a more realistic estimation would be January 1995 or the fall of that year.
"It's really pushing it even to get the elementary schools ready by the fall of 1994," Fiegel said. "Even to do that we need some luck with the weather."
Fiegel said two school committees have been interviewing representatives from seven local architectural firms. Those committees could make recommendations on which firms should handle which projects when the Lawrence school board meets Monday.
Architects first would have to work on the design of the new schools, and actual construction of the schools probably could begin early next summer, Fiegel said.
Before construction of the west Lawrence school can begin, the school board must buy the land where it is to be built. The district still is negotiating with the owner of the land, Minnie Mae Clevenger, 2622 Belle Haven.
"We're still a ways apart on price," Lawrence School Supt. Al Azinger said Tuesday. "We may be looking at invoking the eminent domain in order to get that at a better price that's favorable to the district."
Eminent domain gives governmental bodies the right to appropriate private property for public use, while paying what appraisers deem a fair price to the owner.
FIEGEL said the district has not yet developed a definite time line for completion of the LHS and Central renovations and the Wakarusa Valley expansion. What is certain is when the mill levy for the bond issue will first appear on property tax bills.
District property owners will begin making payments on the bond issue in 1994, meaning the bond issue mill levy will first appear on property tax bills in November of next year.
The bond issue will require an average annual levy of 6.23 mills over 15 years. A mill is $1 of property tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. For the owner of an $80,000 home, that equates to an average annual property tax of $59.81 to support the bond issue.
The levy for the new bonds is expected to drop from a high of 8.39 mills the first year to 5.49 mills the last year. An additional annual levy of about 1 mill will be needed to cover the operating costs of the two new grade schools and the fourth junior high school.