Archive for Monday, May 21, 2012

Lawrence school board planning for bond issue

May 21, 2012


Lawrence school board members on Monday directed district administrators to begin plans to likely present a bond issue mainly aimed at upgrading the district’s elementary schools to voters next spring.

“These schools have been neglected for, in some cases, over a decade,” board member Rick Ingram said. “(It’s exciting) not only to sort of fix the problems that we’ve let pile up but also to think about building something for the future.”

Superintendent Rick Doll said board members have asked the district to begin working on a plan that would begin focusing on east and central Lawrence elementary schools and then the needs at all other elementary schools. Next, it would narrow to any specific and more limited issues at the district’s middle and high schools, plus projects that focus on energy efficiency in buildings, technology, and career and technical education programs.

Administrators and some board members will now begin a search for an architectural firm to get into more specifics. There was no discussion Monday about the bond issue’s price tag. Doll said that would come as district staff members seek more information about building needs and present options to board members, likely over the summer.

As for the timing, district officials say because the district is retiring debt from the 2005 $54 million bond issue that mostly funded improvements at the secondary schools, a new bond issue would not make property-tax rates exceed their current levels.

“The real goal is to improve our facilities and to do that in a no-tax-increase environment,” Doll said.

The bond issue discussion comes on the heels of an April school board decision not to consolidate any of the six elementary schools in east and central Lawrence. Discussions on Monday touched on many issues at elementary schools, from getting rid of portable classrooms to improving kitchen space to resolving traffic issues at certain buildings.

According to a potential timeline provided to board members, the planning process would be completed in September, and board members in October would determine the specific date of the election. Board members indicated Monday they were targeting some time next spring. A City Commission and school board candidate general election is scheduled for April 9, 2013, meaning the district would not have to pay to add the bond issue question to the ballot.

But members also said having a bond issue question and board election on the same ballot could encourage “single-issue” candidates to run.

“Do we really want this to be a centerpiece issue of a board election? It will be if we do that,” said board member Shannon Kimball, whose current term runs through 2015.

A special bond issue election either 60 days before or after the April 9 election would cost the district an estimated $30,000 to $40,000, according to administrators.

Ingram said Monday’s discussion was a good starting point.

“I think we’ve narrowed it down to something that looks like it might be manageable,” he said. “Obviously there are still a lot of issues to figure out, but I think we are headed in the right direction."


dragonwagon2 5 years, 11 months ago

I just don't understand why schools don't budget upkeep, maintenance, and energy efficiencies into their main budgets. I certainly have to at my home.

I also think that any grants, endowments, etc to universities should have to include upkeep in the funding. For example: A huge endowment now only bequests the building - the taxpayers are then charged with upkeep and maintenance of said building.

Changing this practice would give taxpayers a true picture of costs and eliminate some of the gross excess of spending so money can go to items that really boost education rather than support huge buildings, tracks, sports arenas, etc.

anotherview 5 years, 11 months ago

They do budget for these items in the Capital Outlay Fund. However, they made the decision to use these funds and go into debt to build two new football facilities. Thus, several future years Capital Outlay Funds will need to go pay off this debt.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 11 months ago

While the current board may not be culpable, they have to live with damage the former board has done. It's not as if our money comes for the new bond comes from a different source. It still comes from our property taxes, which thanks to Sam will be forever increasing.

The board's rationale is so typical. The new board should be offset by the soon to be retiring old bond. What about giving the taxpayers a break? And do remember we've got that humdinger of a library and the new $30 million police station on the horizon. Enough is enough.

aryastark1984 5 years, 11 months ago

NO! The ones that have to live with this are the KIDS. And, this is designed to give the taxpayers a break. If we had decided to build a bunch of new schools (the old board's plan), then you would be looking at a bond twice or three times the size of the one you are going to see. This is a conservative and fiscally responsible group of people. Don't make elementary school student keep paying for the bad decisions of another school board.

aryastark1984 5 years, 11 months ago

Did the previous school boards pull a fast one? YES. Am I ticked off at them? You bet. The previous school board said in effect "we don't think that elementary schools are important and we will let them fall into disrepair so that we can build palatial football facilities." By not voting for the bond, you are not punishing those school board members, you are in effect SUPPORTING their misguided priorities.

There is an old adage about cutting off your nose to spite your face, but this is more like cutting off your kid's nose to spite your jerk brother-in-law.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 11 months ago

I resent the guilt trip. This is not like cutting off your kid's nose to spite your jerk brother-in-law. This is like saying to your kid in college who spent the next semester's tuition money for a fun time: you created the problem; you find your own solution. There is no more money.

aryastark1984 5 years, 11 months ago

No it isn't. The money is already spent and neither the kids in elementary schools NOR ANY of the current board members were in any way a part of spending it. The current board is doing what they can with what they have got. They have authorized spending capital improvement money to fix what can be fixed. They have established a budgetary oversight committee to make sure that the district is spending their money wisely.

aryastark1984 5 years, 11 months ago

Really? So, you would like a bigger bond? A new school would cost somewhere between 15-20 million to build AND ON TOP OF THAT, you would need to repair the remaining schools.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

USD 497 put taxpayers in the hole $20,000,000 (milliion) on the first leg of PLAY. Now the next leg of PLAY is on the table aka pork barrel for the housing industry.

That $20,000,000 tax dollars could have been spent on taxpayer owned public school repairs. Now we see a bond issue coming forward due to years of negligence by past USD 497 board members.


aryastark1984 5 years, 11 months ago

But it wasn't merrill. If we had a "way back" machine I would be all for going back and making smarter decisions. But, my kid's school's roof leaks RIGHT NOW.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 11 months ago

Does anyone doubt that this was going to happen? People just continue to grow the beast. This year we are blessed with a new library, the LAC, Loran Henderson's drunk tank, and now the schools. We have yet to hear from the county.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

USD 497 BOE does not need a bond issue to fix a leaky roof. The roof at Prairie Park is scheduled for repairs.

aryastark1984 5 years, 11 months ago

They have already made plans to fix what can be fixed given what is in the capital improvement budget. But, the problem is that the list of repairs exceeds what is in the capital improvement budget. I believe you were the one that coined the term "demolition by neglect." On top of the needed repairs, we are now faced with increased enrollment in many of the schools that were assumed (by the previous boards) to be on the decline.

Broken Arrow, Sunset Hill, New York, and Hillcrest either already exceed capacity or will exceed capacity in the near future. If you weren't in favor of closing schools (and I know you were not), then you have to figure out where to put these kids! And as my Dad always said "You can't put a 10lb pig in a 5lb poke."

irvan moore 5 years, 11 months ago

i think the bond is probably a good idea if for the right things and the money not able to be diverted to other things, that said, i don't like the idea of waiting for a smaller election to get lower turnouts that will favor the outcome the board wants. put it on the ballot in november when more voters will be at the polls. let's see if this new board really does want to operate in an honest and open manner or if it's business as usual.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Kennedy and New York Schools could seek relief by way of East Heights which the district still owns.

According to Dave Trabert USD 497 has some of the smallest cost increases in the state (and yes, spending on student and staff support did decline). Part of the reason that spending hasn’t grown much is that their carryover cash balances (not counting capital and bond payment funds) increased by $23.1 million – from $5.3 million to $28.4 million.

Most of the increase represents state and local tax dollars that weren’t spent.

Some of that money can be immediately transferred and used in any manner; some can be accessed by putting less into the fund than needed and spending down part of the balance (according to KSDE).

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Also after reviewing a USD 497 budget at the beginning of the school year it appeared to me that all of elementary schools could be rehabilitated over a 3-5 year period without a bond issue. Using current funding provided by personal property taxes.

The virtual school was relocated to Wakarusa from Centennial. So we still own plenty of teaching facilities = space for students.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Facilities and Maintenance According to some data provided by Ingram the perfect school size is around 226.

Let's take a look at New York Elementary. A new Gym was added to that school less than 10 years ago which required a fair number of tax dollars. Closing that school demonstrates little respect for how tax dollars are spent.

How should the school district pay for a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools? 61% = over a period of time 31% do a bond issue

At $7.5 million USD 497 tax dollars a year in capital outlay funds this maintenance could be accomplished in two years without raising taxes or borrowing money. That money could be made available and dedicated accordingly.

In fact USD 497 2011 Facilities and Maintenance Capital Outlay Priorities suggested $6,440,000 could be spent which included : Cordley Deerfield East Heights Hillcrest Kennedy Langston Hughes(replacing floor throughout this new school building) Centennial New York Pinckney Prairie Park Quail Run Schwegler Sunflower Wakarusa Woodlawn

Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries? 5,198 said yes

Jayhawk1958 5 years, 11 months ago

You're kidding me right? Unbelievable. So much for my property taxes going down.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Brownback opened the door for an increase in personal property taxes.

Saber 5 years, 11 months ago

Typical of Lawrence---

FIRE, Ready, Aim-

What is it we want our schools to achieve?

What do we need to do that?

What is our plan for accomplishing the need?

Do we have the resources to do that, or do we need to reallocate our resources?

If we don't have the resources, where can we get them?

Current approach: Get money, hire an architect to design some undefined something, and then convince the public that they should raise their taxes to accomplish this undefined need.

Doesnt' that sound backwards, or are we..

aryastark1984 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree with you that previous boards did exactly what you suggest, ready, fire, aim. But, I fundamentally disagree with you about the current board. This board is making plans based on enrollment projections that they have now.

I will grant you that these enrollment projections SHOULD have been done BEFORE the task force farce. But, they weren't. The previous board had a set of preconceived conclusions that they were working toward, data be darned. Because the current board does not have a "way back" machine, they cannot undo what has already been done and it is fundamentally unfair to hold them responsible for the mess made by the previous board.

You want a board who is trying to plan for the future. You have one.

Saber 5 years, 11 months ago

Must have missed something. The JW article said, "No.1 Get money, i.e. prepare a bond," "No.2 Find an architect." There was nothing about what the architect should design to, or why we had a capacity problem.

Capacity- There is currently excess capacity in the school system, to wit two facilities that were designed as elementary schools, that are being miss used, i.e. Centennial and Wakarusa. Oh, but where would the current users be moved to? Well the virtual school needs to be moved to fill the space vacated in the Admin building, now that Treanor Architects have new digs. Adult ed. needs to be held at night, and there is no reason why USD 497 needs to support Johnson County's Junior College, when we have a University in Lawrence. Space problem solved.

If existing school facilites need to be upgraded, what is the goal? Bigger schools, like 6000 kids in one building with 35 kids per room, or 265 kid buildings with 20 kids per room?

If we use existing facilities wisely then the school board can take off for the month of June and the Admin staff doesn't need to waste their valuable time working on a "to fail" bond prep.

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