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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

PAC formed to support Lawrence school district bond issue

January 30, 2013

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Two high-profile state politicians from Lawrence are leading a political action committee to campaign in favor of the Lawrence school district's $92.5 million bond proposal.

Rep. Paul Davis, the Kansas House Democratic leader, and Republican Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger announced Wednesday that they will serve as co-chairs of the committee "Yes for Lawrence."

During a news conference at Cordley School to announce the new committee, Davis said one challenge will be to convince people who don't have children in the school system to support the bond proposal anyway.

"What we're going to try to do is really sell the whole community on the fact that whether you have kids in the school system or not, this is just a really important thing for our community," Davis said. "Lawrence is a great place to live, and one of the reasons it's a great place to live is because of the schools that we have here, and we need to have the kind of facilities that foster the best learning environment that we can offer. I think this is going to make Lawrence an even more attractive place to live."

Voters in the Lawrence district will decide the bond proposal at the April 2 general election. If approved, most of the proceeds would go for renovating and expanding the 14 elementary schools, with most of that focused on bringing the six older schools in central and east Lawrence up to the same standards as the newer schools.

Money would also be used to upgrade technology throughout the district and to expand career and technical education programs for high school students.

District officials are calling it a "no-tax-increase" bond proposal because they say it would not result in an increase in the district's property tax levy for debt service payments. That's because the district is retiring a large amount of existing bonds this year.

Praeger said she believes the bond proposal is preferable to the alternative that was considered earlier, closing and consolidating some of the older elementary schools.

"What this will do is really strengthen the neighborhood-community school concept because it will bring all of our elementary schools up to 21st century standards," she said. "That makes a very strong statement for all of our neighborhoods, and I think that's good for the community as a whole too."

School board President Vanessa Sanburn said the committee raised about $600 during an organizational meeting Tuesday night. She said they hope to raise about $15,000 for the entire campaign.

So far, no organized committees have been formed to oppose the bond issue.

The committee has set up a website, yesforlawrence.org where people can sign up for email alerts and volunteer to get involved. The group also has a Facebook page, Facebook.com/YesForLawrence.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

Taxpayer owned resources need to be maintained. Public Education pays back. No question about it.

It's time to do away with the portable buildings as has been promised throughout the years.

I would like to see an entire campus devoted to Vo-Tech education. Not everyone needs nor wants to attend a four college.

It is also my understanding that none of this money can be diverted away from the project.

Thomas Christie 1 year, 10 months ago

So if it doesn't pass does that mean our taxes would go down?

weasel_fan 1 year, 10 months ago

My children are long gone from the Lawrence School District but they had a wonderful experience. I do hope young families today are having the same. Education is about the only area I'll gladly have my tax dollars go and I will vote accordingly.

(And my son hopes it passes as well, I had to call him to have him remind me of my Lawrence Journal World secret identity. LOLing!!)

Peter Hancock 1 year, 10 months ago

If property valuations increase, local governments can raise the same amount of money with a lower property tax mill levy. On the other hand, if values decrease slightly, as Douglas County officials anticipate, it may take a slightly higher mill levy to raise the same amount.

Local governments don't levy mills. They levy dollars. In setting their budgets, local governments look at the total amount they plan to spend, subtract how much of that they'll get from other sources, and then the balance is what they have to raise through property taxes. The mill levy (or tax rate) is simply a mathematical calculation, a function of the county appraiser's office and the county clerk: dollars levied that have to come from property taxes divided by the assessed valuation.

In the case of the Lawrence school district's bond and interest fund, it's pretty much all local property taxes, and a little interest earned on deposits. Lawrence gets no additional aid from the state for that.

patkindle 1 year, 10 months ago

just open up your check book and start writing after all it is all about the kids never mind the 50 mill the usd497 has in petty cash

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 10 months ago

The spin has started. Sold to us last week as no increase in taxes to vote for this bond. The current bond is set to sunset or self terminate. Assuming that our taxes will go down because of the bond terminating, replacing it with the new $92.5 million bond is nothing more than a blank check to those who have wasted our money. Yes it is all about the kids till they get our money then it is business as usual.

The decision makers have to be held accountable and many of us feel that they should not be given this blank check.

GMom05 1 year, 10 months ago

I think people need to be educated about this. They need to ask questions. Sure increased security is good, so is improved technology, so is taking care of all the deferred maintenance owed to the schools that were ignored for so long. But ask why are we expanding the capacity of some of our schools when we just closed a school? Yes, they are replacing the portables and that is good, but for example, Sunset Hills is slated for 5 ADDITIONAL classrooms above and beyond the replacement of portables. Why do they need to increase capacity for say, roughly 125 more kids at this school? Why is New York getting 2 additional classrooms (not portables) when they can't even fill the building they've got? Why are we adding on to schools, when we still own THREE elementary buildings in this district (Centennial, Wakarusa Valley, and East Heights)? What happens if the next school board decides to consolidate again? Well, then we're in a perfect position to close Hillcrest, move half of them to Sunset Hills and the rest to Pinckney or somewhere, because we just increased Sunset Hills capacity so much. I heard 12 additional elementary classrooms above portable replacement. That's an entire two section school. I just want to know why???

William Ed 1 year, 10 months ago

Representative Davis and Commissioner Praeger have my deepest sympathy. They are both very fine people and outstanding representatives of our community. It is a real shame that they have been scammed into becoming part of the charade that the School district is foisting on us. If you are not paying taxes to pay off bonds and you are then going to have to pay off a $95 Million bond, anybody knows that is an increase.

As pointed out above by Gmom5, we have plenty of classroom space available in the district, so adding more classrooms is nonsensical (that's a fancy word for something else). This bond is a blotted pork barrel. It seems like every department in the Administration did the "Me too" thing and this is the camel that we got.

This won't be the end of it either, the administration will ask for more people, and a short term loan will be taken out at a 5% rate to cover the "extras," just like was done for our football stadiums after the bond didn't cover everything.

Cauac 1 year, 10 months ago

Skags and GMom05 You are wrong about the excess space. That may have been true in the past, but with the growth in the elementary population it is no longer true. I agree that people need to be educated about this and to ask questions, but there are lots of opportunities to ask these questions. The distinct has scheduled 13 more informational settings across the community (www.usd497.org/BondIssuePlanning/docu...). There is a lot of information at these meetings and on the district website, so there is just no reason for anyone to be uninformed. What I learned at the session I went to, among other things, is that New York is starting to grow and that they will be overcrowded without additional space. New York is, and will remain, a small school but that is not the same thing as not being able to fill the building. This bond will, finally, do things like get rid of portables, improve security, and generally fix the schools that have been neglected for so long. It is the respectful thing to do for our kids; finally, they are investing in schools and these kids rather than closing buildings, which I find to be a refreshing change from the last school board.

GMom05 1 year, 10 months ago

So, Sunset Hills is expecting 125 child increase to their enrollment? In any case, if there is an expected growth, why are we not using the three buildings we still own rather than building new?

Cauac 1 year, 10 months ago

I don't know the reason for Sunset Hills, but you can ask. There are a bunch of informational settings, or you could call or e-mail board members, so there is no reason for that question to go unanswered for you. As for using the other buildings, I am pretty sure they are being used, but even if not what if the growth is not in those areas? Or, can you imagine the nightmare of redrawing boundaries to move kids there, which then creates empty space in the buildings they moved from? And even if you did move kids to these buildings, the remaining buildings have gone for far too long without being modernized. It is time to do the right thing.

GMom05 1 year, 10 months ago

  1. Nobody cared about redrawing boundaries when they closed those three schools they most recently closed, as long as it didn't affect their child. The district just changed the boundaries and sent those kids further away to drive past their own community school every day.
  2. Yes, I do know the buildings are being used. The disctrict gets some nominal rental fee like a $1 a month from Boys & Girls club for using East Heights. And the Virtual School has the Wakarusa Valley brick and mortar building, clearly they could work from anywhere. They were at Centennial before they closed Wakarusa. Johnson County uses Centennial, but part of the bond issue is to build a Vo-Tech building over by Holcomb which they can then teach out of, so why not reopen Centennial? It was in better shape than Cordley to begin with.
  3. As for the other three buildings having gone too long without being modernized, that is also not entirely true. Wakarusa Valley required $0 for repairs when the task force did their recommendation. They have the biggest gym and the biggest kitchen in the district for an elementary school. If it was reopened we would not be spending tax dollars on a bond to build kitchens and separate gyms/cafeterias. That building already has everything it needs. Given that the virtual school operates out of there now, they probably have plenty of high-tech infrastructure there as well.
    4.What answer could they possibly give me to explain 125 extra seats at Sunset Hills?

Cauac 1 year, 10 months ago

Wow, you cannot imagine the answer about Sunset Hill. so there no reason to even ask the question. Wow. How in world would reopening WVschool negate the needs of the six schools that are in need? But I get it, you are still upset about Wakarusa, so let's hold 6 year olds going to school in portables accountable for the decisions made by a previous board,

Bridgett Wagner 1 year, 10 months ago

As I understand it, from the meeting I attended, Sunset Hills is one of the 3 (I think) schools designated to accommodate for future growth. Sunset for the west, New York (I think) for the central part of town, and Prairie Park for the east.

aryastark1984 1 year, 10 months ago

I get people's skepticism. People voted for school improvements and got football fields. But, here is the problem, while those lavish football fields were being built, our elementary schools continued to decompose. All buildings need maintenance, to be upgraded with new technology, to replace HVAC units etc. But, those things DID NOT HAPPEN. Why? Because there were board members who prioritized football fields over elementary schools. There were past board members who were just looking for a way to close down some of these schools, as one past board member said "I am not going to put any money into your $hi%%y little school." It did not happen because 8-10 years ago, the elementary population was decreasing and maybe at that point, closing schools did make sense.

That was then. This is now. We have an increasing student population and we need somewhere for those kids to sit. We have schools that should have been repaired , maintained, and upgraded a long time ago. But, they weren't. We are all paying for the sins of the past board's decisions. But, that is part of being a grown up. It is the job of grown ups to pay the price for poor decisions. As grown ups we do that, so our children don't have to.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 10 months ago

It is not the facility that facilitates good education. It is the educators. We don't need new schools, we need to better manage the assets we have. I fully understand your position and agree with most of it, but the time has come to hold the stewards of our cash accountable for what is done, not just write them a $92.5 million dollar blank check. If you look back when they first started talking about this bond, they said it would not be a tax increase, which is a blatent lie. To trust them now would be very stupid. The ole bait and switch is alive and well. Hopefully there are enough taxpayers that are tired of the school board urinating down our backs and telling us it is raining.

George_Braziller 1 year, 10 months ago

How about a master plan first? At one point schools were going to be closed or consolidated then all of that died because it turned out the projections for neighborhood growth were wrong. No way I'm going to vote for the bond until I see some solid plans.

Cauac 1 year, 10 months ago

There are plans for each and every school that are posted on the school district website. I find the transparency of this board refreshing.

As to the earlier point about a "blank check" I have to ask are you serious? They have spelled out in pretty explicit detail where the money will be spent. And new schools? No one is talking about new schools. Facilities do matter. Blatant lie and bait and switch? Where is your evidence?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 10 months ago

You must know very little about the "Creative" accounting techniques governmental agencies use. How assets are allocated, which holds onto the money for a specific project until the project they really want is ready, then magically the original allocation is recended and moneys are funneled into the other one. They play game after game, all in the "Interest" of the children, when in fact, some administrator is only interested in getting his name on a bronze plackard outside some new building. If you do not think giving these people a new bond without accountability is not a blank check, then I am personally glad you are not on the school board. The lie you asked about happened a week or so ago, and if you are that interested, YOU look it up. It had to do with one of the board members stating that the new bond would not be a tax increase, where we all know that the original bond sunsets (Tax relief) and the replacement is in fact a tax increase. As for bait and switch, they might as well incorporate the motto into the school districts flag.

Cauac 1 year, 10 months ago

When I open my property tax bill next year and it is the same as last year's then there is no tax increase. Your definition is creative indeed. Have you gone to an informational meeting? Have you talked to school board members? Have you read the information on the website? But then, why bother to inform yourself when anonymous character assassination on these forums is so much easier.

George_Braziller 1 year, 10 months ago

Last bond issue also had a lot of PR about detail for how the money was going to be spent and it didn't happen.

Just because it's on a website doesn't mean it's true or accurate. It's called marketing.

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