Jeff West school board sends $3.6 million bond issue to voters
by Clarke Davis
Members of the Jefferson West Board of Education unanimously voted to submit a $3.6 million bond issue to USD 340 voters when they met Sunday night.
The election will be April 3.
The bonds will be for a period of eight years and require an ad valorem tax levy of about 8 mills or about 1 mill less than taxpayers have been paying on the high school bonds that will be retired this year. Figures presented indicate a person with a house valued at $100,000 would pay $7.73 a month if the bond issue passes. They are currently paying $8.87.
The meeting was attended by 10 or 12 patrons, most of whom are members of a committee that has been studying the district’s needs since September and produced the list of needs.
Tonya Holthaus, chairwoman of the bond committee, addressed the board and presented the committee’s recommendations.
It will be this committee’s job to sell the bond issue to patrons. The school board made it clear that it can provide information, but it cannot spend money to promote its passage.
“These are all needs. I don’t see many wishes on this list,” board President Jeff Van Petten said.
That list is broken into four categories: 1) Infrastructure or basic repairs and electrical ugrades for the buildings including a roof on the high school, $815,000; 2) Technology upgrades in all three buildings along with iPads and laptops, $1.588 million; 3) Facilities replacement. A 40-by-140-foot building to house a locker room, restrooms, and concession stand at the football field, $520,000; and 4) Facilities upgrade: resurface track. stadium lights, reseed football field, restroom and concessions stand at baseball field, etc., $995,000.
Van Petten expressed concerns the board had at the Jan. 9 meeting and Superintendent Pat Happer said he submitted a revised list that cut some costs
“We trimmed the size of the building that will house the locker rooms and concession stand,” Happer said.
He also came up with figures the district has been spending for technology each year through lease-purchase agreements and upgrades out of capital outlay. He said the bond money will not only put the district well ahead in technology but help make the anual upgrades more affordable in the future.
Timing of the election is believed crucial because bond issues passed under current school law will be supported by state funds amounting to 40 percent. The governor has proposed changing the school finance structure and under his plan the state would no longer help pay for these bond issues, leaving the entire cost up to local taxpayers. The Legislature has not acted on that proposal, however.
Board member Shannon McMahon said she got on the telephone and called patrons because she was not hearing much. She voiced her opinion, noting the importance of having an up-to-date educational program to keep people here and attract people to the district.
Holthaus echoed the same sentiments in addressing the board.
“This is not just for the school,” she said. “It’s for the future of this community . . . to bring new business and keep the value up on homes.”
Member Scott Gibson made the motion to hold the bond election and read the resolution that the board was required to adopt to put the wheels in motion.
It’s now up to the bond committee to get people informed and encourage a positive outcome. The board members thanked the committee for its work to point.
Holthaus said the committee would now begin to work on getting patrons registered to vote, develop a web site, do a mailing, and go door to door to get people informed and to the polls.
McMahon expressed her worries that there is too much misinformation being circulated and told the committee members she hoped they could reach these people with the right information.
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