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Archive for Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Public airs questions over $92.5 million school bond issue

March 26, 2013

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Supporters of the Lawrence school district's proposed $92.5 million bond issue said Tuesday that it would equip local teachers and schools for 21st century education while providing a boost to the local economy.

But a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative, free-market oriented political action group said the bond proposal is poorly thought out and suggested district officials to go back to the drawing board and come up with a different plan.

"If you look at the Chamber of Commerce, and lot of people that I talk to in the coffee shops across town can't understand why we need this new bond issue when the kids that are coming out can't read," said AFP coordinator Jim Mullins. "And I concur with them."

But school board member Rick Ingram fired back, saying: "Number one, our kids can read. And number two, the Chamber of Commerce has endorsed this bond."

Those comments came during a town hall meeting about the bond proposal. The forum was sponsored by the Voter Education Coalition, a nonpartisan coalition of more than a dozen Lawrence-area businesses and organizations that promotes voter participation by holding community forums.

If approved, about $80 million would be used to improve the district's 14 elementary schools, with most of that used for upgrading and expanding the six older schools in central and east Lawrence to bring them up to the same standards as the newer schools.

Another $6.5 million would be used for technology enhancements throughout the district, and $5.7 million to expand career and technical education offered at the district's Holcom facility.

Several questions from the public focused on why the district is now proposing to upgrade and modernize all 14 elementary schools instead of the original plan to close and consolidate some of the older schools.

"The reality is, enrollment is increasing," Ingram said. "This is not the time you want to start closing or consolidating schools."

Ingram said consolidating schools would still require a large construction project to expand one building, or build an entirely new one, but other buildings would still need expansions to allow for projected growth. And in the end, he said, it would not result in significant cost savings.

But Mullins disagreed, calling it "disingenuous" to say the district couldn't figure out a way to make consolidation work.

"Lawrence is better than that," he said. "We could do that if we wanted to."

Voters in the Lawrence district will decide on the bond proposal in Tuesday's election. Voters will also elect three members of the Lawrence school board as well as three members of the Lawrence City Commission.

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Comments

OzD 1 year, 8 months ago

Sounds like Jim Mullins knows a thing or two about getting a bad education. Maybe he should have interviewed some local high school students while at some of the coffee shops around town to see how their literacy skills are coming along.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

If children can't read that problem begins in the home not in the classroom. Jim Mullins get your facts straight.

Smaller classes and neighborhood schools are still the best bang for the tax buck. That's why Langston Hughes was built as a neighborhood school. Those parents want their children walking and bicycling to school and the most productive learning environment.

Deerfield has never been on the chopping block because those parents want the best learning environment for their children. Parents whose children attend any of the schools being painted as evil also want the best learning environment for their children.

If the district decided to bulldoze school buildings then the district would find itself paying wayyyyy too much money for new land = reckless spending. Land in Lawrence,Kansas is no bargain.

Developers should be setting land aside in THEIR new neighborhoods. The school district should not be in the business of buying real estate certainly NOT from developers. Public schools and public parks make the new neighborhoods worth a ton more money to the real estate industry.

Historically the revenues generated by new residential housing does not pay for the many services they require from a municipality.

Currahee 1 year, 8 months ago

I've taught at a low income school in a different state. I was asked to read to a kindergartner who I normally work with, because they had to develop their reading ability. Suddenly half the class comes up to me and asks if I can read to them. I asked if their parents read to them and they said no. The teachers complain that the parents do nothing with the kids when they get home. Education does not stop when the kids come home from school. Any sane person understands this and doesn't require an $80 million bond for BUILDING IMPROVEMENTS. This is just to scam the residents of Lawrence to revive the failing building industry here and anyone who disagrees can be called out as "anti-book learning". If you're going to take out a $100 million bond you better spend 80% of it on teachers. Walls won't teach .

kansastm 1 year, 8 months ago

Bond money cannot, by state law, be spent on teacher salaries.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

The real estate industry builds new neighborhoods for the sake of making money not out of the warmness of their hearts. No more and more traffic,roads,sewer lines etc etc do not improve the quality of life in Lawrence,Kansas. GET REAL!

I would bet if building more and more neighborhoods was put to a vote it would receive a resounding NO THANK YOU.

There is one consequence of helter skelter aimless growth that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

NOT necessary city growth is the result of over several decades of subsidies paid for by the WE the local taxpayer.

texburgh 1 year, 8 months ago

So our businesses (the local chamber) are the enemy and overpaid government workers are the enemy. If management and labor are both the enemy, who's not?

Hadley_says 1 year, 8 months ago

Jim Mullins said the people of Lawrence opposed the transportation tax.

Jim Mullins said the people of Lawrence opposed the Library.

Jim Mullins says lots of things which are utterly false.

What he doesn't say is that his paycheck is underwritten by the lobbying organization (Americans for Prosperity) controlled by the richest, and most secret, Kansas private business.....Koch.

Jim Mullins, Dave Trabert, Art Hall, the KANSAS chamber of commerce and others are just peas in a pod.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

ALEC Mullins and ALEC Brownback = two ALEC peas in a pod

Mike Myers 1 year, 8 months ago

The forum was very good and informational. For the most part, with two exceptions...the Americans for "Prosperity" guy didn't know what the heck he was talking about. His ideas were not well founded and not based on any research or homework on his part. He brought some "data" that was intended to show our schools are "failing" and our kids can't read. His data actually showed that well over half of our kids can read and comprehend at the exemplary level. When confronted with real data all he could say was "well you're wrong".

Typical of the AFP (Koch Brothers) group, they try to twist real numbers with words in a way to befuddle and confound in order to promote their agenda which is generally regressive taxing or pushing the majority of the tax burden on the middle class and poor. He came off as a real nice grandfatherly guy who loves schools and loves teachers, he just doesn't want to pay for them.

The only two things he said that I agreed with are:

  1. He said that teachers aren't paid enough! Well said! Perhaps he can lobby the governor to meet his oblications for school funding so we can give the teachers raises and hire some specialists! Go Jim!
  2. He said that the proposed technical education center to be funded by the bond was a "great idea" . Well said Jim!

I'm voting for this bond for strong schools, smart kids, strong neighborhoods, jobs, and property values.

Hooligan_016 1 year, 8 months ago

Good lord, AFP? Really? And of all people, Jim Mullins; the same ** who is an Agenda 21 nutter.

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

Why was an extremist like Mullins brought in for the Town Hall Meeting, essentially to represent the No vote of the thoughtful and inquiring people of Lawrence? I guess we were just looking for a spark to a big debate. Not a good choice.

aryastark1984 1 year, 8 months ago

Because the only people opposed to the bond are the anti-tax nutters.

jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

I have a couple of questions.

If this doesn't pass, will our property taxes go down? If it passes, will they go up?

If it doesn't pass, will the board be able to easily rewrite it and submit it again soon, or will they have to wait until the next election of some sort?

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

It's about timing. If it doesn't pass and is not resubmitted then yes, within a year or two your taxes will go down. If they go up it won't be because of this particular bond, but there could be other things in the city like a new Law Enforcement Center, or the BOE could come back and try another bond in a few years for general funds, for instance, not capital funds. A bond that could give raises to teachers for example. If it doesn't pass right now, they can reevaluate why it didn't pass, rewrite it and have another election as early as within 60 days, though it would be on our dime so to speak. Otherwise, they can wait and piggy-back on the next scheduled election for free. Nothing horrible will happen if it doesn't pass, they can still go back to the drawing board and try again for something that suits the people of Lawrence more and in a reasonably short time frame. The big deal is that they want to pass it before the current bonds retire, because then your taxes will go down, and anything that happens AFTER that will look like a tax INCREASE.

jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

Thanks.

Whose dime if they want to hold another vote sooner?

kansastm 1 year, 8 months ago

If it does not pass, your property tax will go down by about $100 per year on a $150,000 house. If it passes, the bond and interest mill levy for schools will NOT go up. If it doesn't pass, I suspect the board would try again because the needs are not going away, and only getting worse over time. With rising construction and borrowing costs, you will get less for the money you spend later. And, if the bond question is not on the ballot for a regular election, the school district has to pay for a special election.

Ichegoya 1 year, 8 months ago

At Cordley, there is a huge hole in the ceiling with trash bags directing what I assume to be a water leak into a giant trash container. My daughter walks by it every day. Been there for weeks.

I'll pay for a bond issue, damn right. It's tragic, the state of education in this country.

Clark Coan 1 year, 8 months ago

I was going to vote against it because $92 million is a lot of money and state-of-the-art facilities don't really result in better education (think one-room schoolhouses). But if the bond issue results in keeping our neighborhood schools open longer, then I am for it. Small schools are better for learning and using the Walking Bus program, kids can walk safely to a neighborhood school.

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

Walking safely to school would be fine as long as you're not one of the Langston Hughes kids who will end up being bused over to the enlarged Sunset Hill eventually to make room for the new growth on the west side. The new kids will get their neighborhood school then. How long do you think it will take for one of the future boards to close Woodlawn? Those kids won't get to walk to their neighborhood school. They'll be bused right by it into one of the new and improved 6 core schools. This bond is all great if your kids attend one of the 6 important core neighborhood schools.

kansastm 1 year, 8 months ago

Langston kids are NOT going to be bussed to Sunset Hill. That is not part of any of the plans.

tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

The teacher in the one room school house didn't have to teach as many subjects. They didn't have to be a social worker. They had more leeway in discipline. And she didn't need to compete with TV, video games, Facebook, etc. She also didn't need to used computers to properly train her students for the modern world.

Nice facilities aren't a guarantee, but they do demonstrate to the students that people care if the ceiling is falling in. If you don't have nice facilities the message the student gets if "They don't care, why should I?"

texburgh 1 year, 8 months ago

And in the one room school house days we didn't care about children with disabilities or who were still learning English, or even often even minority children (Kansas was a little better on this that some other states but still...). And those one room school house kids weren't all expected to go on to post-secondary schools or even to go much past 8th grade. Don't let the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder make you think the one room school house days were some sort of educational utopia. They weren't and they would be terrible failures in meeting today's challenges.

William Ed 1 year, 8 months ago

They should have spent a small part of the $30 Million unencumbered funds they have on their books to fix Cordley right now. We don't need to be held ransom fo $92.5 Million for 25 years.

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

Absolutely. There is no reason they can't patch a few holes in the meantime or couldn't probably even find the money to re-roof it now. Demand it be fixed now and it will be a heck of a lot less than 92.5 million!

aryastark1984 1 year, 8 months ago

Except that there are widespread problems ACROSS all these schools! The roof in my daughter's school leaks AND she goes to class in a portable AND the HVAC system is bad. Previous school boards showed a profound disrespect to elementary school children. It should NEVER have been "save our neighborhood schools" it should have been save our ELEMENTARY schools. The previous board members, especially SM and ML did not give a damn about elementary schools, they only cared about high schools and middle schools (to a lesser extent). There whole plan was to siphon as much money out of elementary schools as possible so that that money could be put into high schools. If you believe that anything else was going on, than you did not look behind the curtain.

aryastark1984 1 year, 8 months ago

"Unencumbered" is a total misnomer. What it really means is money that is set aside to deal with budget shortfalls because the state refuses to meet its constitutional obligation to fund schools adequately. If you are looking for someone to blame for that try Americans for Prosperity-aka the Koch Brothers.

Hadley_says 1 year, 8 months ago

aka Jim Mullins, Dave Trabert, Art Hall, etc.

jonnyboy 1 year, 8 months ago

The last couple of years I have actually LOOKED at my property tax breakdown and been shocked at how much of it goes to the schools.

I want good education, but I can't afford it any more.

If I knew we were able to keep great teachers, like Ms. Bear, the former band director at Free State, I'd be willing to spend the money.....but even then.....my property taxes are TOO high!!!!!!!!

tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

Really. And our mill levy isn't as high as others. It's just seems higher, because your property is worth more here than other places in Kansas.

jonnyboy 1 year, 8 months ago

My income is less than $50,000 and my house is small. Maybe I should move and just let wealthy johnson county people move here who can afford it. I'm sure a number of people here would love to see all those small houses they are building here!!

Bigdog66046 1 year, 8 months ago

Doesn't anyone see that if they let the schools fall apart then everyone will want to vote for this. Lets get rid of any and all leaders,school board, and staff that cant take care of our schools now. Instead of giving them 92+ millions to blow like they have been to all the rest of the money. Nothing ANY school board says can be trusted. They always put things so vague so they can change and do what ever they want to do with this money. The remodeled the kitchen in Centennial while it was still the "virtual" school. Then after closing walkarusa, they "suddenly" realized they could move the child first program to centennial and other stuff to walkarusa to make way for the sports fields. Just lucky that brand new kitchen was there. They have plans for how they will spend all this money, they just wont tell us what they truly are!

aryastark1984 1 year, 8 months ago

We did. They are gone. It is now up to the current board to clean up their mess. A friend of mine tells me that Rich Minder said to him "We aren't going to spend a dime to fix up your @#$% little school"

brutus 1 year, 8 months ago

The kitchen at Centennial was not remodeled.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

A Community Plan Using data from a comprehensive facilities evaluation and external technology audit, and incorporating extensive community study and input, the Lawrence Board of Education has developed a plan that provides neighborhood schools, touches every school in the district and addresses excellence and equity goals. http://www.usd497.org/bondissueplanning/overview

The heart of the plan brings elementary schools, especially older facilities in central and east Lawrence, up to current standards. http://www.usd497.org/bondissueplanning/overview

Read more about how this $92.5 million proposal:

Improves School Facilities - $80.3 million.

Enhances Technology Districtwide - $6.5 million.

Expands Career and Technical Education Opportunities - $5.7 million. http://www.usd497.org/bondissueplanning/overview

Watch & Share this Bond Video. KS School Bond Elections, 2008-2012 The April 2 Ballot Question "Shall the following be adopted? http://www.usd497.org/bondissueplanning/overview

Shall Unified School District No. 497, Douglas County, Kansas (Lawrence), issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $92,500,000 to pay the costs to construct additions to and renovate, improve technology infrastructure, equip and furnish existing elementary and secondary schools; construct, equip and furnish a new career and technology education facility and make all other necessary and related improvements in the District; all pursuant to the provisions of K.S.A 10-101 et seq.; K.S.A. 25-2018 (f); and K.S.A. 72-6761?" http://www.usd497.org/bondissueplanning/overview

nominalize 1 year, 8 months ago

whoa, facts? in a comments section? :)

Kansas_Girl 1 year, 8 months ago

What happens if the bond passes and the legislature cuts funding or shifts funding to a local level. Will our borrowing capacity be maxed out or restrict us from raising the operating funds needed. I see this as restricting our ability to react to a very uncertain future in this political climate.

IreneAdler84 1 year, 8 months ago

You cannot use bond money to pay teachers. Funding for teachers comes out of the operating budget.

However, this bond improve energy efficiency. Money saved in the utilities budget can then be put to better use, like paying teachers.

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

If the state cuts funding we won't have enough money to pay all the teachers to be teaching in these newly added classrooms! The $280,000 a year we're going to save in the new HVAC units will pay maybe 10 more custodians to clean and maintain all this new square footage we are adding.

homechanger 1 year, 8 months ago

All of the problems with substandard buildings existed while the district was building the two brand new sports facilities for both high schools. Why were we not worried about the condition of our school buildings then?

workinghard 1 year, 8 months ago

The sad fact is, while the current school board has good intentions for the money if the bond passes, they will not always be the ones in control of the money. All it takes is a new school board with a new focus. This is how we ended up with the money used on athletic fields instead of repairing elementary schools.

workinghard 1 year, 8 months ago

Unfortunately I'm not the only one voting. Believe me, I never once voted for Mary L____ and she still kept getting in.

aryastark1984 1 year, 8 months ago

Neither she nor Scott M___ are on the board now.

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

There are still 3 left over from that former board, some of which are rerunning. Plus there's always that chance they'll change their tune just like Vanessa S____ did. Just because they say one thing in an election year, doesn't mean that's the agenda they'll stick with for all four years.

aryastark1984 1 year, 8 months ago

Ok. Lets get very specific and real here. The scope of the work of the current bond is to be conducted over the course of 4 years. Any change to the nature of how the bond money is spent would require a majority vote of the school board (4 votes). Considering that the current board helped write the bond, is made up of people with children in elementary schools, and ran because they were pissed off a school closings, what logical argument can you offer for what you are suggesting?

And remember, even if one person has some sort of weird change of mind, that person would have to convince 3 more people to vote with him/her.

The current board contains the following people and the duration of their terms:

Mark Bradford (hold over). Done-not seeking reelection Bob Byers (hold over). Running for reelection Vanessa Sanburn (hold over): Running for reelection Rick Ingram: Will be on the board for at least 2 more years Keith Diaz-Moore: Will be on the board for at least 2 more years Randy Masten: Will be on the board for at least 2 more years Shannon Kimball: Will be on the board for at least 2 more years

Running for the board, meaning that they will be around for at least 4 more years: Adina Morse Vanessa Sandburn Bob Byers Kristie Adair.

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

You assume that the only problem people have is they don't trust the Prior board. You're completely missing the fact that many people feel this Current board is the one that came up with a faulty bond and it is the Current board that will execute it. 3 open spots and 4 candidates. The only thing we know for sure is Bradford won't be back. Quite possibly we'll end up with the exact same board with the exception of one new person. How does that change anything?

IreneAdler84 1 year, 8 months ago

Ok. In one post you say you couldn't trust the previous board-I am with you so far. Then you say that you can't trust that the current board will change their mind about how the money will be spent. In this post, you say that you can't trust the current board because they came up with the plan. You seem to have a conspiracy theory. Do you have any actual evidence?

GMom05 1 year, 8 months ago

I didn't say people necessarily don't trust the current board. I said they don't like the bond they came up with. And they don't trust those from the previous board. More to the point, you appear to be making an assumption that all new board members in the past two years are trustworthy. I am not a football field hater and I don't think it's right to blame these people for that particular incident if they had nothing to do with it. The only Fact is, the current board came up with a bond many people disagree with, regardless of whether they trust them or not, it simply leads them to believe the board doesn't make good choices. The evidence is on the website and went home in every child's back pack this week.

aryastark1984 1 year, 8 months ago

And a lot of people do like the bond the way it is. Don't get trapped into thinking that this forum is in any way representative of the community at large. People who post to this forum have strong opinions one way or the other, they don't represent the typical middle of the road voter. We will see on Tuesday whether you are right.

Amy Gottschamer 1 year, 8 months ago

I read these comments but never post. But this is crazy! Anyone can see that the BOE just ran the bill all the way up to 92.5 Million, because that's how far you could go before it becomes a Tax-Increase Bond. It does not mean that the scope of work is Necessary. What will we do when we need money to pay the teachers in these enlarged buildings and they have to come to us for more money for a General Fund Bond? If they had been told they could only go to 75M, then that's where it would sit, but what would be left out? That which is Not necessary. That much newly built additional capacity in the district makes no sense when you still own three elementary buildings. Go back to the drawing board and write up something that makes financial sense, now and in the future, and then the rest of us will vote for it.

IreneAdler84 1 year, 8 months ago

There is no such thing as a "general fund bond"!!! You are just making things up to feed ignorance. I bet you know better. You should be ashamed of your self.

jesse499 1 year, 8 months ago

Why is it that the only way a kid can get a good education now days is if they close his school down the street and bus him to a brand new building somewhere else.

Norm Jennings 1 year, 8 months ago

Sweet! I was actually having trouble deciding. Now that I know that Gov Brown-shirts cronies are against it; I know I'm for it!

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