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Archive for Sunday, March 24, 2013

Editorial: Bond reservations

Questions about the process and details of Lawrence’s proposed $92.5 million school bond issue don’t inspire an enthusiastic endorsement.

March 24, 2013

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Chances are, every voter who marks a ballot in the April 2 $92.5 million school bond election has a memory of his or her elementary school — the building itself and the teachers and principal.

Those memories, in addition to current familiarity with the condition of many older Lawrence school buildings, may frame each voter’s decision to favor or oppose the ballot question.

No one would wish a decrepit facility on today’s students. Those who are urging passage of the bond question rightly point out that upgrades to space, to HVAC systems and to technology will enhance the education that youngsters get while attending classes in these buildings.

Proponents also hammer home the point that there is no tax increase associated with the bond issue, and that it will provide jobs in Lawrence for a number of years. They also point to the career education component of the issue.

Those are valid arguments.

But they’re not overwhelmingly persuasive.

On the career education piece, differences apparently remain over the district’s plans to locate the facility at Holcolm Park instead of the site preferred by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce at the former Farmland location on Kansas Highway 10.

On the overall issue, questions remain about the board’s approach, which seemed to involve going from school to school essentially promising to meet the wishes of patrons, and then maxing out the bond issue at $92.5 million, the most that could be financed without a tax increase – at least in that fund. Is this the best and most honest way to meet the overall needs of the district and assure a quality education for the district’s students?

Certainly the process has identified legitimate needs that should be addressed. It’s important that Lawrence has a top-quality school system — for many reasons, foremost being the education offered to our students, but another is that it’s a key factor in business location decisions.

Is there a better way to achieve a top-quality school system than simply to pour more money into aging facilities? Is building a modern school for contemporary needs to serve East Lawrence now and into the future preferable? Is the bond issue, which appears to be throwing money at a variety of undefined problems, the best use of $92.5 million? Has the school board and district administration fully explored options that might produce a less predictable, traditional course?

Supporting the bond issue is the comfortable position to take, but the questions surrounding the manner in which the proposal was developed do not lend themselves to an enthusiastic endorsement.

If it passes, let’s hope that the expenditures prove to have been worth the money and that the ultimate beneficiaries are the students and the community. If it fails, let’s hope the next school board quickly can develop a substitute proposal undergirded by a clearly articulated statement concerning the plan for using the money — a statement that makes the bond issue more of a magnet for community support than “no tax increase” and “something for every school.”

Either way, let’s hope that the school experience in Lawrence produces pleasant memories for our students for years to come.

Comments

IreneAdler84 1 year ago

I would like to take this opportunity to point out how deeply out of touch this paper is with the city it serves.

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LadyJ 1 year ago

Could I just point out that while the present school board would honor their word, it does not mean the school board elected 10 years from now would. That's how we got into this mess with the athletic fields and the city's rec center. Just like the city commission back in the 90's did not intend for the city to spend $25 million x 2 on a rec center.

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George_Braziller 1 year ago

I'll be voting "no" on the bond issue.

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Why not continue to make use of existing resources? It makes good sense. Most of the school buildings are not that old. New shiny buildings do not improve the quality of education it's the level of education coming out of the building that matters.

It make good sense to keep schools in neighborhoods thus promoting less vehicles on the road in favor or students walking or bicycling to school.

Replacing older buildings on the same sites of existing buildings would work as well IF that is absolutely necessary.

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

The key for the future I say is to make sure the USD 497 BOE spends the annual capital improvement dollars that comes from property taxes on maintaining taxpayer owned properties as we go instead of blowing the maintenance off.

In hopes of suckering taxpayers into a wasteful concept of bulldozing taxpayer owned buildings and paying outrageous amounts of money to local developers for land in order for developers to have a public school in THEIR NEW neighborhoods. That BTW which increases the values of THEIR NEW neighborhoods. This type of nonsense must cease for it is NOT in the best interest of the taxpayers.

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Clevercowgirl 1 year ago

C'mon everyone. Drink the Koolaide. The School Board and Dr. Doll know what's best for our children and all of us. Never mind that our children will be paying for this bond one day, 30 million in interest is reasonable .

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

All schools in the district will receive improvements.

Basically it looks this way.

Facilities = rehab and maintenance where necessary Technology - to all schools in the district $6-$7 million $$$$$ Career Building Vo-Tech Training

Blended Learning requires new technology for all facilities. This application is long over due and will free up teaching staff time to devote to students that require more attention. While at the same time allows those more advanced learners to move ahead at their own pace. Money for this new technology is being applied to all schools in the district.

I have been assured by a 4 BOE members and Dr Doll this very Monday morning that all of the bond money will be applied to "academics" and none to sports facilities.

No building is being ignored.

How many want the the school district to pay $23,000 per acre or more for a new building site? That would be absurd. $1,000 - $2,000 per acre would be fair.

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GMom05 1 year ago

I am behind the security, technology, and Vo-Tech improvements ($12.5 M). I marched in the SONS rally. I am behind the concept of the small neighborhood schools and repairing all the deferred maintenance our prior boards did not see as necessary. But, I will vote NO for a bond that takes nearly 60% of $80 million and gives it to only 6 schools. I will vote NO for a bond that doesn't make the same improvements to all the buildings it owns, ensuring they will soon crumble, rather than responsibly protecting the real estate we own. I will vote NO for a bond that drastically increases the size of our small neighborhood schools and sets us up in the future for further consolidation (read there will always be another BOE). Look folks, you CAN vote NO. It's not like they'll close your school! When it fails, the board and Dr. Doll will be forced to go back to the drawing board and present us with a reasonable bond. You can still have your needs met, just without the poor precedent. Just say yes to fiscal responsibility and keeping our small neighborhood schools small.

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aryastark1984 1 year ago

Ok. So lets correct a few things that are just plain wrong.

1) The enrollment is growing in the district. The school board paid a consulting firm to do growth projections based on census data and they project growth BOTH in the city's core and maybe in the future out West. The funny thing was that at the time, the "close school" crowd was hoping to show us East side folks that we were wrong and that enrollment was decreasing,especially on the East side. Instead what they found is that increased enrollment trends were projected to continue. Enrollment is currently up by more than 200 kids since 2008. That is the size of a small school. You don't close/consolidate schools when you are growing. Smart organizations change their plans when circumstances change. It is only a fool that believes on Wed, what he believed on Monday, in spite of what happened on Tuesday.

2) If you went to any of the bond presentations, you would know that adding on to Sunset Hill is a thoughtful decision that is designed to delay the need to add another school out West. And yes, the idea would be to make small boundary changes to Langston Hughes, Quail Run, and Deerfield to make this happen. However, the idea would be to do "graduated changes" so that it would only affect new kids, not kids that are already in a school.

3) New York is now almost entirely a 2 section school, with a large kindergarten class this year.

4) The school closure brigade was lead by Scott Morgan, with gleeful input from Mary Loveland, and Rich Minder (as long as NY wasn't closed). School board sets policy and Doll serves at the pleasure of the school board. The current board and all the people running for the board are not in favor of school closure. Make no mistake, Doll would like to keep his job.

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Clevercowgirl 1 year ago

PFC you don't know who GMom is, so can you say whether she was at a meeting or not? PFC could be anything..like Paramedic Fire Chief. Who knows, and, more importantly, who cares. I have no doubt that GMom is operating on the information provided by the district. Surely, that would all be true (dripping sarcasm).

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Clevercowgirl 1 year ago

Sorry Toto, according to the U.S. Census, Lawrence is not growing. Furthermore, I see no place in which substantial growth to the core could occur. Why build new facilities, when a simple set of boundary changes would solve any pockets of overcrowding?

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Clevercowgirl 1 year ago

Why are we expanding the Core Schools? Are we expecting a large number of families to flock to the existing neighborhoods? I recall that the district was all for closing some of these schools, in the name of efficiency, due to, in part the demographic of fewer young families in these areas. This may be a new board, but Dr. Doll is still in charge of this three ring circus. This budget panders to the core area of Lawrence, in order to get their votes. The only real growth may happen on the western edge of town. Maintain Core schools...of course. Expand Core schools..ridiculous. Give the school district 92.5 million in discretionary funds...Insane.

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William Ed 1 year ago

Having looked at Cheeseburgers numbers, anyone looking at the allocation of funds for the schools, sees a mismatch, probably caused by myopia. With 4 schools having over $8 million being spent on them, two more getting close to $6 million, and the rest get half as much or less. The major expenditures are in the center of Lawrence. This looks a lot like consolidation, with Sunset Hill receiving 10% of the total bond funds. When asked why the expenditures were this way and existing facilities were not used instead, ie Centennial, East Heights, and Wakarusa, the answer given is that they were just not in the right place. So why is Sunset Hill in the "right place?" The reason, it is to be virtually doubled in size to accommodate more kids from Quail Run, by changing the school's boundary. Strange that they couldn't change boundaries to allow the use of the three unused facilites, at almost no cost. Well the reason must be that they want to relieve the overcrowding at Langston Hughes. This of course would require changing that school's boundaries. I guess when they change those two schools' boundaries they won't call it boundary changing they, will call it redistribution. HMMM Why was the virtual school left out of the bond largess. Because it didn't need any environmental improvement or technological upgrades? HMMM

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IreneAdler84 1 year ago

True, but so what. This editorial really pissed me off. My kid goes to school in a portable and has 15 minutes to eat lunch because the cafeteria is also the gym and there aren't enough hours of the school day to fit everything in one room. So, yeah. I am kind of invested in this process and I have taken the time to educate myself about the bond. And, quite frankly I am also heartsick that there are people in this community that would punish children for the sins of a group of people that no longer have decision making authority.

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IreneAdler84 1 year ago

I would like to point out that this paper endorsed Brownback and is now surprised by the nut job policies coming out of Topeka. So, their track record is not exactly credible.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

The school district is led. By the ilk of Loring Henderson. Spend, spend

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Steve Jacob 1 year ago

I still want my "pound of flesh" for building those stadiums (needed as they where) without telling us. So I will be voting no.

Plus spending $96M on buildings is odd when the state will give us less money per student with Brownback being in office 6 more years. Also, let's not forget Lawrence as a whole is not growing, and soon the lower US birth rates since the Great Rescission kicks in.

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buffalo63 1 year ago

If my memory pills are working, I remember the $2 million "saved" from the last bond issue was "spent" or at least cited as justification, to build a locker room at LHS, improvements at Central and building the athletic fields. This was over a two or three year period.

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buffalo63 1 year ago

The very end of the bond question, "and make all other necessary and related improvements in the District...", which means all the plans drawn, all the tech equipment, all the Voc-ed money could be spent some other necessary and related way. That probably won't happen, but people thought that last bond issue. Reason the District has to be very transparent with how the money is used, if the bond passes.

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Melinda Toumi 1 year ago

Are we sure that tobacco use causes cancer? Is global warming really happening at the hands of humans? Is evolution real?

Our dear editors' logic is the same of the tobacco lawyers and those that deny obvious & accepted scientific fact. Question something and then you've discredited it, RIGHT?

Um, no. Cordley has one working boys' bathroom. Fact. Lawrence has rejected the consolidation efforts of Doll et al. Fact. You may feel differently, but you would be in the minority. That's your right, but time to recognize that! This town has a majority that favors strong neighborhoods & local schools. Not every family can own two cars and drive to their 500 student elementary school at 8 and 3. Get real.

The Chamber publicly endorsed the bond March 1st. Business leaders will have a chance to put some of their own money where their mouths are - and maybe they'll get some influence in the location of expanded vo-tech education buildings. Minor detail.

What is disgusting to me is that some of my fellow Lawrence residents would really rather have crumbling schools (which decreases future employment opportunities, decreases home values) just to save $120/year on their property taxes. Maybe you aren't in a financial situation to BE a homeowner if that $120 is really going to break you. When I write that check every December at the court house, it's a duty that I carry out with pride.

26% of LHS/FSHS graduates go directly into the work force... with what skills? It's a really big deal that the Board of Regents approved these expanded technical educational opportunities for our students, and what a loss to our community if we don't act now, when the time is right.

Think of the families that will come off of Medicaid and food stamps because Dad gets a new construction job - and YES, the school board is committed to keeping these jobs local. That's worth more than $120/year to me!

If this isn't more reason to invest in education, then I don't know what is: Please do not "assure" i.e. make the quality education feel nice, please ENSURE quality education by voting YES on Question 1 April 2nd.

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Pamela Shanks 1 year ago

And why do we need to spend more on LFSHS than LHS?!! It is one of the newest schools in the district. Apparently, they don't know how to build schools that will pass the test of time. Amazing.

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cheeseburger 1 year ago

Did anyone note the facility improvement budgets by school on page 9 of the USD 497 propaganda flyer in this morning's paper? Here's an excerpt:

Sunset Hill - $9.3 Million; Cordley - $8.9 Million; Kennedy - $8.5 Million; Hillcrest - $8.4 Million; Pinckney - $6.8 Million; New York - $5.7 Million; Deerfield - $3.2 Million; Schwegler - $2.8 Million; Sunflower - $2.7 Million; Quail Run - $2.6 Million; LFSHS - $4.2 Million; LHS - $3.9 Million.

The first four schools on the list could be bulldozed and rebuilt for the same or less money than the 'improvements' are going to cost. Looks to me like the board is attempting once again to bamboozle the voters. This voter has no intention of being bamboozled a second time.

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tomatogrower 1 year ago

I was wary of voting for this bond issue, but I understand there will be a governing board that will make sure the money doesn't go to more fancy sport facilities, and instead will go to what it's suppose to go for. If there is any money left over, they should make sure that it goes to education facilities. They already have extremely good sports stadiums, and I think they should get alumni to donate for the maintenance of these facilities. Our tax dollars need to go toward all the kids, not just the sports players. All the money spent on the few is what America is becoming, but it doesn't make it right.

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

There is no way for this money to go anywhere else but to the schools.....

New ways of teaching are coming on line = very smart move

Moving forward on the Vo-Tech aspect is welcome news.

This BOE is more than aware of the neglect to taxpayer owned properties that preceded them. A matter that is not being overlooked.

The Chamber has come out in favor.....

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Centerville 1 year ago

We need to take this opportunity to lower property taxes and help everyone regain some economic footing. Use more of the existing sales tax revenue to fund local ed, if you wish. At least every individual can decide whether or not to participate.

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Marilyn Hull 1 year ago

I find the arguments for the school bond to be plenty persuasive.

We say we want neighborhood schools. If we mean it, we have to keep investing in them.

We need to get schools wired--or wireless--so teachers can engage students in lots of different ways, depending on how they learn best.

And we've GOT TO provide career training for kids who aren't bound for 4-year degrees. Other Kansas districts put us to shame in this area.

I don't have kids in school anymore, but I think all of this is vital.

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youngjayhawk 1 year ago

Vote NO and your taxes will go down = no brainer!

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

But the bond will pass! Betting my only eye on that!

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Patricia Davis 1 year ago

The school district has lot my confidence. I will not be voting on this bond. And I will not vote another any bond until the language is air tight that will prevent boards from circumventing the will of the voters. When you have proven yourself to be untrustworthy, it is very difficult to become trusted.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

J W needs to come out strongly against this and the chamber as well. The district has squandered money and has not carried a scheduled maintenance plan for decades,

The selling of scrap? So they claimed of desks and chairs and getting some $68 a load, paying two workers is hardly a well managed machine.

JW cover that story?

New school on the east side? Kinda late, that should have been a high school instead of dumping millions into a new south and Lawrence.

So, is the J W for a bond passing or is paper grandstanding as Amyx did with the rec center, but now wants to spend millions more. On sewer, and whatever, so the rec center can pump to the northwest and not to the south.

Two plants were needed sometime ago but who pays now?

What is being annexed south of the river that is being kept a secret?

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Using1994 sales taxes for public school education... http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2001/apr...

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

1994 Sales tax revenue could help the public school district.

It's not a far-fetched idea, given Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall's written opinion that city or county governments in Kansas may legally use local retail sales tax revenue to finance capital improvements and operating budgets in public school districts. The catch is that all expenditures must be under the umbrella of "economic development."

Public policy question The city of Lawrence and Douglas County already collect the maximum sales tax 1 percent each allowed by state law. But it's possible that either of these governing bodies could reallocate a portion of existing sales tax revenue.

"It's a public policy," said Mike Wildgen, Lawrence city manager. "Commissions can change public policy over time."

In Stovall's opinion, city and county governments have home-rule powers that offer wide latitude in determining what constitutes "economic development." Governing bodies could declare that spending sales tax revenue to improve schools was an economic development initiative useful to attracting people or businesses.

Salina experiment The city of Salina and the Salina school district already have the type of cooperative deal Stovall believes is capable of withstanding legal challenge. In 1998, Salina voters approved the collection of a quarter-cent sales tax to support instructional technology programs in the school district.

Lawrence got into the sales-tax business in 1972 with voter passage of a half-cent sales tax. Another half-cent was approved in 1990. Both were designed to support police and fire departments and help contain property taxes.

When the school board made a push to gain voter approval of a bond issue to build Free State High School, the city and county agreed to reduce their mill levies to offset increases necessary to pay for the construction project.

"The mill levy was the same, but it had a higher percentage for the school district," Weinaug said. "It make it easier to adopt the bond issue."

Wildgen also said the city used sales tax revenue to build an indoor pool at Free State High School. The city also invested $200,000 in construction of an extra-large gym last year at Langston Hughes School for the purpose of supporting recreational programs such as soccer and basketball.

The city also has acquired park land most recently 40 acres in southeast Lawrence for a public park that reserves space for construction of a new school, he said. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2001/apr...

Why did the previous BOE do this? http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/dec...

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Let's get beyond the "buildings" chit chat. Let's move to another level. How about turning our energies toward means of updating the teacher pay scales? Let'a keep all of our teachers off food stamps....... and above poverty level. Let's get creative.

Yes to the bond issue.

Why not continue to make use of existing resources? It makes good sense. Most of the school buildings are not that old. New shiny buildings do not improve the quality of education it's the level of education coming out of the building that matters.

It make good sense to keep schools in neighborhoods thus promoting less vehicles on the road in favor or students walking or bicycling to school. Replacing older buildings on the same sites of existing buildings would work as well IF that is absolutely necessary.

I've read that school districts that have tried larger buildings with way more students are reverting back to the smaller building fewer students tried and true concept.

Updating our existing buildings makes good sense. However USD 497 needs a plan to maintain all of the taxpayers school buildings over the "demolition by neglect" attitudes of previous school boards. Taxpayers want our investments maintained properly and updated accordingly NOT ignored.

How about turning our energies toward means of updating the teacher pay scales? Let'a keep all of our teachers off food stamps....... and above poverty level. Let's get creative.

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