The Lawrence school district’s proposed bond issue is measured, reasonable and necessary. Voters should approve it in the mail election that ends May 2.
The $87 million is essentially the secondary school successor to the $92 million bond issue approved in 2013 that was heavily focused on the district’s elementary schools. The last project in that bond issue is nearing completion at Pinckney Elementary School.
The new project will cost taxpayers a property tax increase of about 2.4 mills or an additional $55 per year on a $200,000 home. But even with a 2.4 mill increase, the school district’s property tax rate will remain less than it was a decade ago.
The school district could have sought a bond issue of up to $45 million without seeking a property tax increase, Superintendent Kyle Hayden said. But that amount would not even fully cover the pressing needs at Lawrence High School, which will undergo $50.8 million in renovations and additions to accommodate the needs of the current student population.
At present, Lawrence High School doesn’t have enough space for its students. Classrooms with space for 18 students are often asked to accommodate 25 or more. The bond issue includes funding for 27,000 square feet of additions and 288,000 square feet of renovations at Lawrence High. Two new classrooms will be added and existing classrooms will be expanded. Locker sizes will be reduced to create more space for study areas. The fine arts areas — including the auditorium stage, orchestra room, storage and rehearsal space — will be renovated. The Lawrence High work will include renovated physical education and athletics locker rooms, a modernized library media center, an expanded natatorium, expanded bus lane and other projects.
While Lawrence High is a significant focus of the bond issue, bond funds also will be used for projects at every secondary campus including
l $15.2 million for new classrooms and renovations at Free State High School;
l $9.8 million for 17,500 square feet of renovations at West Middle School;
l $4.3 million for renovations at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School;
l $4.3 million for renovations Southwest Middle School;
l And $1.8 million for upgrades at South Middle School.
The approach is similar to the 2013 bond issue, which included funding for work at every district elementary school. But given student population growth across every grade level in the district, work is needed at every campus. In the past decade, enrollment in the Lawrence school district has increased by 10.5 percent from 10,833 students in the 2007-08 school year to 11,969 this year. Similar growth is anticipated in the coming decade and in such an environment, the school district has a responsibility to ensure its facilities are adequate not only for current student populations but also for future ones.
The $87 million bond issue for the Lawrence district is warranted. Voters should mark “yes” on the ballot they received in the mail and return it to the Douglas County Clerk’s Office by May 2.