Archive for Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lawrence school district’s $87 million bond issue: A few frequently asked questions

This sample ballot shows the bond issue that will be mailed to Lawrence USD 497 residents as early as April 12, 2017.

This sample ballot shows the bond issue that will be mailed to Lawrence USD 497 residents as early as April 12, 2017.

April 16, 2017

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Last week, paper ballots were sent out to homes across the Lawrence school district asking voters to approve a proposed $87 million bond issue. If approved, the bond would set into motion a sweeping series of improvements intended to transform Lawrence’s secondary schools into what district leaders have dubbed “21st-century learning environments.”

With the deadline to return ballots to the County Clerk’s office — that’s by noon May 2 — still a few weeks away, we’ve rounded up a few frequently asked questions about the proposed bond issue. Here are the basics:

Wasn’t there a bond issue passed a few years back?

You might remember the school district’s last bond issue, which passed in 2013. That $92.5 million bond, which did not call for a tax increase, focused mainly on Lawrence’s 14 elementary schools. The current $87 million bond issue aims to bring Lawrence’s secondary schools, including an aging Lawrence High School, up to the same standards ushered in by the 2013 bond projects at local elementary schools.

Election timeline

Voters have until noon on May 2 to return ballots that were mailed out beginning April 12. Voters can mail the ballot to the address provided, or can take the ballot to one of four designated locations: County Clerk's office, 1100 Massachusetts St.; the all-hours drop box on the south side of the County Courthouse at 11th and Massachusetts streets; the satellite office of the Douglas County Treasurer in the Dillons store at 3000 W. Sixth St.; or the satellite office of the Douglas County Treasurer at 2000 W. 31st St.

Lawrence High School did receive $4.3 million in renovations as part of the 2013 bond, with funds allocated toward a secure entry for the school, a black box theater, a cafeteria expansion and other small projects. Free State High School also added a new office area and a few classrooms. All schools, including the district’s four middle schools, received secure entrances as part of that bond.

How would this current bond impact my taxes?

If voters decide to approve the 2017 bond, they’ll likely see a tax increase of 2.4 mills. That equates to an approximate $55 tax increase per year for the owner of a home valued at $200,000, or about $300 per year for a $500,000 business.

Here is how homeowners can calculate the how much the tax increase will cost them. Warning: there is math involved. Take the value of your home, and take it times 11.5 percent. Take that answer times 2.4. Then divide than answer by 1000. That number is how much your taxes would increase in a year.

Most of the talk I’ve heard has been about Lawrence High School and its $50.8 million price tag. What would projects look like at the other schools addressed in the bond?

Yes, it’s true that LHS — a mid-century campus that has been pieced together over the years but has never received a comprehensive overhaul, according to district leaders — would receive more than half the bond’s budget. But Free State High School, built in 1997, would receive a sizable $15.2 million renovation, including 18,000 additional square feet that would include new classrooms to address the district’s growing enrollment. The school would also see an expanded multipurpose area for activities and athletics, flexible collaboration spaces, a modernized media library center, added lockers in athletics and PE facilities, and a new parking lot south of the existing baseball field.

The proposed projects for Lawrence's four middle schools include:

• West Middle School, $9.8 million: enlarged classrooms, flexible collaboration spaces, added storage, a modernized library media center and a buildingwide HVAC replacement.

• Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, $4.3 million: reconfigured classroom and office space on the first and third floors of the building, a modernized media library center, improvements to the auditorium stage and widened corridors (with an allowance for new flexible collaboration spaces) created by a reduction in locker sizes.

• Southwest Middle School, $4.3 million: An allowance of $235,000 would go toward additional student collaboration spaces and a modernized library media center, plus a new fire alarm system.

• South Middle School, $1.8 million: An allowance of $235,000 would go toward additional student collaboration spaces and a modernized library media center.

All schools would receive roof repairs or replacements, improved restrooms and showers, and additional collaborative spaces for students. Free State, LHS, LMCMS and WMS would all receive mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades, additionally. Remaining funds would go toward renovations at the Lawrence College and Career Center ($600,000) and technology improvements ($200,000) across the district.

Why renovate LHS instead of building a new high school?

There was some talk of constructing a new Lawrence High School back when architecture firm Gould Evans was brought aboard in late 2015 to begin the facilities master planning process for the current bond issue, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said. Throughout that process, architects consulted with engineering and construction firms, Boyle said. It was eventually estimated that building an entirely new high school would cost about three times as much as renovating the current LHS.

Based on construction estimates from consultants, a new facility would cost more than $123.2 million, including the building itself, site improvements, infrastructure, athletic fields and furnishings. That number, according to district officials, doesn't cover land acquisition.

School board leaders, such as board vice president Shannon Kimball, have also expressed a commitment to “support and respect” the “very rich tradition” of the original 1954 building.

Who will design and oversee the projects if the bond passes?

That’s still up in the air. District officials have said they won’t contract with architects or construction managers unless the bond passes. The district has already hired Gould Evans to assess school needs and create a master plan for the bond, including several renderings of proposed improvements, however.

During the 2013 bond issue, the district divided projects into four packages among three design firms. The Lawrence-based Gould Evans took on Hillcrest, Langston Hughes, Sunset Hill, Cordley and Pinckney schools. Sabitini Architects Inc., another Lawrence-based firm, worked on Kennedy, Deerfield and Schwegler schools, as well as Free State and LHS. BG Consultants, which has offices in Lawrence, designed projects at Quail Run, Broken Arrow, Prairie Park and Sunflower elementary schools, plus Lawrence’s four middle schools.

When would these projects tentatively be completed?

The earliest projects would tentatively begin construction is 2018 and wrap up by the end of 2019. Lawrence High School, because of the scope of its proposed improvements, likely wouldn’t be completed until 2021.

What’s the deal with the proposed gender-neutral restrooms? What would those look like?

District leaders aren’t sure, and they’re still looking for community input — specifically, from LGBT students — in determining design. Though still very early in the process, Gould Evans has procured three options for reconfigured restrooms at all secondary schools.

The first option would create non-gender-specific, single-occupancy restrooms located off the school corridor and separate from gendered restrooms. The second option would transform all restrooms in the building into gender-neutral facilities with individual enclosed stalls and shared sink space. The third option would create a gender-neutral restroom located within the school’s administrative core, allowing some ambiguity for students using the facility.

These proposed designs, however, are part of an ongoing discussion surrounding LGBT accessibility in the district, Superintendent Kyle Hayden has said. It’s a discussion that will continue — involving the input of students, staff and parents — if the bond passes.

Look for additional coverage about the financial aspects of the bond issue later this week in the Journal-World and at LJWorld.com.

Comments

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

If you don't care about the education of High School and Middle School-aged kids in Lawrence, by all means, please follow RJ's advice.

RJ Johnson 1 month, 1 week ago

Brandon, Has nothing to d about caring about the kids education and everything to do about spending reasonably! We already spend over half our personnel property tax on the school district. Our school districts spending has gotten way out of control!! Also you have a short memory Brandon, we just voted for and approved a multi million dollar bond issue in 2013!! Our school district needs to learn to make so with what they have like everyone else!

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

RJ, not a short memory at all. Read what was just stated in the article. . ."You might remember the school district’s last bond issue, which passed in 2013. That $92.5 million bond, which did not call for a tax increase, focused mainly on Lawrence’s 14 elementary schools." Granted, a little less than 5% of that went to a few improvements to the High Schools, but the vast majority went to primary education facilities that were in dire need of update. This current bond makes needed improvements to LHS and other secondary facilities.

David Holroyd 1 month, 1 week ago

Mr. R J Johnson,,,the only vote is NO.

You see, not one school board member has stepped forward to tell the voters where they are to come up with the $55 dollars and the same question should be asked of the city commission.

The sad part is the city spends and spends but cannot even at the request of the city commisson and mayor tell the staff to repair the Mausoleum and at a cost of $50,00 or less it would be in mighty fine shape. The turned down an offer over 30 years ago to repair the thing.

I do believe city commissioners now and before want it torn down. Anyone who has relatives in the Mausoleum at Memorial Park will down the road find that that mausoleum in a good tornado will be in Eudora

Memorial day is a month away and one would think the city commissioners would get off their duffs and do what is right.

Clean the interior...talk to Mr. Fritzel about scrap granite which he can easily acquire..use that to fill in the holes where bodies were removed.

The city can clean the gates to the mausoleum and repaint. There are local stained glass craftpersons who post online, surely she/he/they might even want to produce something to show their artistic ability.

The city parks and rec has plantings to use outside to enhance the structure.

Then the so called Historians who seem so willing to name stuff after William Burroughs could find the time to place a placard outside with the names of those left and the names of those moved with the new addresses at Oak Hill.

Nothing is being done, because the commission does not care and can't wait to spend tens of thousands of dollars soliciting bids, doing studies, water runoff studies..

It is pitiful the way this commission cannot take the lead and get something done in 30 days.

It is even moreso that the paper doesn't interview the current Mayor and get her take on the situation.

The city manager doesn't care at all. He is too busy peddling the Riverfront Mall to the public.

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

Well, it's the only vote if you don't care about the quality of education that kids in Lawrence get.

What in those 12 lines had anything to do with the school bond issue, other than having someone explain where to get $55.00 to add to your property taxes? (I have to be honest, I'm completely shocked that you didn't bring the Superintendent's salary back into the discussion.)

Honestly, if you're going to complain about $55.00, maybe you shouldn't be living and owning property in one of the most expensive communities in Kansas.

Steve Jacob 1 month, 1 week ago

$55 here, mill levy goes up every year, along with your health insurance, gas will hit $3 again someday, recession is around the corner, all this while many get little or no raise in salary. It all adds up.

RJ Johnson 1 month, 1 week ago

The City of Lawrence increased property tax revenue by 214% since 1997, while inflation and population combined increased 70% . When is it going to stop???? Enough is enough. We pay taxes already that the school board request through the mill levy for their budget. Start cutting jobs at USD497 if they can not make their budget work and make do with what they have already!! We approved 92 million in 2013, we are not doing it again!

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

"We approved 92 million in 2013, we are not doing it again!" An apples and oranges argument, since the last one was for Primary schools.

However, by all means, when discussing the needs of schools and financing it, lets talk about cutting jobs at the school district. Because cutting jobs in education is an excellent way to benefit the education of children.

Steve Jacob 1 month, 1 week ago

The bond issue has nothing to do with jobs, that's why to vote NO. The problems with the school district is not infrastructure, it's Topeka. Those can't be easily fixed.

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

Ok. . .so the problem is in Topeka. . .no argument. So let's take care of it ourselves instead of waiting on Topeka to handle it for us.

Or we can just bury out head in the sand and continue to complain.

Deborah Snyder 1 month, 1 week ago

My questions center around the district's capital outlay and maintenance funds, or operations budget.

  1. Why aren't at least some of these proposals being handled through that budget, or the district's savings/rainy day funds.

  2. How did the district or Gould Evans come up with the bond proposal figures? There have been plenty of "surprises" when modifying space or moving walls in older buildings. How does the bond address those hidden costs?

  3. Why were school administrators at these buildings allowed to be their own project managers in making these proposals at each of the middle and high schools? Was a comprehensive survey completed by an independent, eeducationcertified

Deborah Snyder 1 month, 1 week ago

...sorry... education board-certified independent consultants (one not tied to financial benefit, like Gould-Evans) showing the education benefit to these proposals?

  1. Much of the proposed changes appear to benefit administrative staff and teachers. How are these changes going to benefit educational improvement goals or outcomes?

  2. If roof repair, plumbing and fire alarms need replacement, why isn't this being handled through annual operations funding?

  3. What does the age of our high school have anything to do with ongoing maintenance? After all, Cordley Elementary was extensively remodeled and had far less "cohesiveness" to it's layout than LHS. Yet something so basic as roof replacement over its gymnasium wasn't included!

How will the district account for all aspects of changes it wants to make to Central Junior High, which is just as old as Cordley?

These are questions I do not see being answered. I also know as fact that the administration has developed a sharply more inhouse and all-but-hidden process in making these proposals, accumulated without a thorough and public vetting process.

Please explain how, and by whom, these proposed building changes were made, and how secondary students directly benefit from them.

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

"Much of the proposed changes appear to benefit administrative staff and teachers. How are these changes going to benefit educational improvement goals or outcomes?"

Really? Modernized Library Media Centers? Collaboration areas? Updates to HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems? New fire alarms? Those all sound like reasonable, genuine attempts to provide a better and safer learning environment for Lawrence youth.

Deborah Snyder 1 month, 1 week ago

The mechanical "update" (what, exactly is that?) of a central air conditioning system isn't stated to be in student areas...can you or someone point me to an HVAC system already in place and then point me to Where the Update is?

Help me understand the pedagogical "need" for a media centers in the library when USD497 just issued macbooks to its students?

What, specifically, needs to be replaced or updated in these media areas (in addition to the computers having been regularly replaced in these areas already). Aren't those costs supposed to be covered by the district and its contract supplier?!

Deborah Snyder 1 month, 1 week ago

And the "collaboration areas" ... are these similar to the combination classrooms in Broken Arrow? If not for classroom teaching, then what collaboration is this bond talking about? During the school day or after?

Finally, explain how ripping out all of the existing lockers and reducing locker space benefits middle school students at Central??!

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

There is a really nicely designed presentation on the USD497 website that goes into great detail every question you are asking.

RJ Johnson 1 month, 1 week ago

The City and School district continue to tax the elderly and disabled from their homes!

Brandon Devlin 1 month, 1 week ago

Don't forget the Federal and State governments that tax you as well. . .

Death and taxes. It happens to everyone.

Cille King 1 month, 1 week ago

For Deborah and others who need more information, you could listen to the Voter Education Coalition town hall on the bond issue:

https://www.6lawrence.com/6lawrence/index.php/2017/04/14/school-bond-issue-forum/

Also: the online information: http://www.usd497.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=51&ViewID=7B97F7ED-8E5E-4120-848F-A8B4987D588F&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=11&PageID=1

For LHS, an addition will bring the current 30 entrances down to one main one that can be secure, classrooms will be enlarged (similar to FSHS classroom sizes), hallways will be widened, and much more.

David Holroyd 1 month ago

Yes, Mr. Brandon Devlin...what about the Superintendent's $200 , 000 a year and his wife employed by the district as well? What about that.

And you are right about moving..who wants to live in the most expensive communities in the state! A community that cannot fix streets, that complains each and every year that the school district has no money.

You are right on one thing, Lawrence is run down and a joke of a city...

Mr.Brandon Devlin, perhaps you can get the award winning editor to interview each and every school board member to reveal where each property owner in Lawrence is to get the$55.00 or whatever their respective amounts are.

The superintendent makes $200,000 a year and if his wife is still employed, that Mr. Devlin is NEPOTISM. Is that family so hungry they cannot live on his $200,000 a year.?

And he will want a raise to cover his increase in property taxes. You do not get it , he does not get it..and the board does not care. Moving is correct. Believe me, I can name folks who have already moved and plenty more that are working on it.

Lawrence is a run down dump compared to what it should be with the amount of money taken in by the city , county, and school district.

Ms. King...are you ready to raise your rents?

Brandon Devlin 1 month ago

Actually, Mr. David Holroyd (I can use first and last names in silly manners as well,) that's not what Nepotism is.

Nepotism: favoritism granted to relatives in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other activities. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to important positions by Catholic popes and bishops.

Nepotism in this case would be Free State getting more of the bond because his wife is a teacher there. (Which, she was already before he got the job as Superintendent.) That's not what's happening here.

By all means, however, try again.

Bill Turner 1 month ago

I might be inclined to vote yes if the district hadn't misappropriated funds from a similar measure a decade ago to build fancy new football stadiums. Maybe when this vote goes down the district will wish they'd invested and spent their money more wisely. I'm all for education. I'm not at all for taxpayer funding of elective athletics.

Deborah Snyder 1 month ago

I stand corrected on the outside consultancy on the numerous requested modifications and proposed updates. However, I was unable to access the Cable 6 meeting because of so many upfront cookie redirects, so as far as I can telk, the rest of my questions weren't answered, Cille.

Why does LHS need wider hallways?

Deborah Snyder 1 month ago

Why would anyone think it's o.k. to downsize a students locker at CJHS? Does anyone out there realize just how much school material is assigned to these kids?

And again, I'm waiting for someone to locate the HVAC "update" on equipment serviced by a contractor?

I was told directly to my face that several of these bond updates are for the benefit of administrations at each school.

And weren't there well-established, long-standing studies on the failure of collaborative study areas in school buildings, including the lack of cohesion in coordinated content between teachers, not to mention the distractive environment??

Look, this bond initiative has not been presented to the PTA/PTO organizations, neighborhood associations (as prior bonds have been done), and certainly has not been given enough time to be understood how, PRECISELY, these numerous structural changes benefit our students!

Property owners deserve a thorough explanation of what, why and who on this bond before ramming it through a mail-in ballot process where the most responses, no matter how small a portion creates another fiscal obligation for everyone!

David Holroyd 1 month ago

Deborah, Ms. Cille King is an architect. You see Lawrence has so many architects and folks with planning courses, that they are the experts..but not actually employed.

MR. BILL Turner...it is imperative that the votre GO DOWN...they will soon realize that what the board and realtors want they cannot have.

Lower the superintendent's pay to $150,000 , have his wife resign and seek employment in the private sector..which pays taxes..the school district sucks up the taxes. True the school employees pay taxes but thus far it seems not one of them understand where their income comes from. They act as if the school district is a private employer..kinda like the Chamber of Commerce..which receives taxpayer funding as well.

Mr. Turner were you to vote YES, I am curious where you would get the $55 t;hey suggest for a $200 ,000 home? I suppose your's may be that much as the county appraiser is very adept at raising the valuations to make the numbers work..of course the numbers do not follow when the houses are sold..for less than county valuation and less than the listed price. That is the story the Journal World will not write.

Brandon Devlin 1 month ago

My God, man. . .what does his salary or his wife's employment have to do with any of this??? Would reducing his salary make that much of a difference? Have his wife seek employment in the private sector? SHE'S A SCHOOL TEACHER.

David Holroyd 1 month ago

Deborah Snyder,,,just vote NO and get your friends to do so . Otherwise you will pay more to live in the neighborhood you are in...which aint' that upscale anymore.

Deborah Snyder 1 month ago

Mr. Holroyd, address the bond proposal. Just .... HELP me and others focus, focus ONLY on the bond language and content. Look, I appreciate the clear sense of bitterness you appear to have on many topics... but honest-to-god I need your comments to FOCUS on a very narrow spectrum, and I truly, really hope you can read the begging plea to look at just what, exactly, this bond does for secondary school children. Please?

David Holroyd 1 month ago

Deborah,,,,you tell me what it does..I am not bitter,,,my dear...Just facts. go ahead and support it...and pay more on your house....Ask your School Board what it does...see what architects benefit...ask the Superintendent...he is paid well.....too much in fact. He can work for $160,000. What does his salary for secondary children.? Please?

Brandon Devlin 1 month ago

What does his salary have to do with anything involved here?

David Holroyd 1 month ago

The money will go toward a black box theater...How neat is that? Can't Lawrence get a donor...it is a community of giving and sharing? How much does a black box theater...Quite frankly,,,,I find that reference to the theater...some what, if you will, not PC?

Brandon Devlin 1 month ago

Do you even read?

The "black box theater" for LHS was included as a part of the last bond in 2013, not this one.

IE, you've already paid for it.

Deborah Snyder 1 month ago

I understand your points, and am sympathetic. I'm sorry to appear, in any way, critical of your comments in tone or topic.

I just wish there was a more in depth examination of what is in this bond proposal, and to get answers tovmy questions, since I believe, for myself anyway, that those answers would help others to understand what's at the bottom of this bond.

Thanks for considering my plea in its genuine intent....

Terry Sexton 1 month ago

I voted in favor of it. Building the football stadiums was fiscally prudent for the long run. I'm glad the elementary schools were improved and I'm hopeful this referendum will pass in order to improve the secondary schools, mainly LHS. If you want to keep your community thriving, you need good educational facilities. It helps to attract new residents and new industry. I will not, however, support the new jail expansion unless equal considerations are given to new and/or improved mental health services and facilities.

Richard Heckler 1 month ago

I had a problem with the football stadium expenditure because football stadiums was not part of the deal. Nor did I believe it was necessary for winning teams. That is now water under the bridge and we have a different BOE.

Some on that 2007 BOE were among those wanting to demolish or shut down some neighborhood schools.

If I remember correctly it appeared building maintenance of any significance was being somewhat ignored for a few years as the anti neighborhood school thinkers were hoping to shut down some neighborhood schools and such. Thus we find ourselves playing catch up probably at somewhat increased costs.

We are in year 2017 with a very different BOE for which I salute.

I can ditto these comments : "I'm glad the elementary schools were improved and I'm hopeful this referendum will pass in order to improve the secondary schools, mainly LHS. If you want to keep your community thriving, you need good educational facilities. It helps to attract new residents and new industry" = economic growth."

30 years ago we relocated to Lawrence,Kansas because USD 497 was among the best school districts in the nation alongside some JOCO schools. Of course Kansas conservatives masquerading as republicans are trying to destroy public education in favor of profiteers.

Richard Heckler 1 month ago

Deborah Snyder is putting forth some legitimate food for thought btw.

Richard Heckler 1 month ago

Another perspective.....

Remodel projects often reveal unexpected challenges. Who knows what might be found once walls have been opened or perhaps a complication is discovered.

The question becomes shall the complication be dealt with in an efficient manner or shall the complication be ignored until a later date. Or would it best to deal with the complication or new issue now that the walls are torn apart or should taxpayers get billed for tearing the walls apart at a later date to fix what could be fixed now for less?

Was anything accomplished that should not have been accomplished?

Did smaller lockers allow for more lockers? Have the smaller lockers been a hassle for very many? Etc etc etc.

Perhaps in the interest of efficient spending some other tasks got the green light?

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