School District Gives Details on Bond Issue

Published 03/13 2012 04:22PM

Updated 03/15 2012 11:55AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A $42 million bond issue aimed at improving St. Joseph schools is just weeks away from going to a vote.

Voters will decide whether or not to approve the school district's plan to extend its debt to the year 2033.

"We listened to the community to develop this plan.  We also listened to the community on how to fund this plan," said Kevin Kirby, chair of Our Children Our Future.

The current form of the bond issue comes after an $87 million issue was rejected.

The new bond issue does not raise tax rates.

"We did some polling on it, some surveying of the community," said St. Joseph School District's assistant superintendent Steve Huff.  "Really the message came back loud and clear: the community is not of a mind for a tax increase."

If it passes, most of the money would go toward building two new schools.

17.9 million dollars would build a school at Carden Park on 16th and Duncan, replacing Hall Elementary.

Another $15.3 million would go toward a new school for the northeast part of town on Cook Road.

The bond issue would also install air conditioning in all St. Joseph elementary schools, which will cost the district 5.1 million dollars.

Currently, the only elementary school that has air conditioning throughout the entire building is Parkway.

"Kids live in air conditioning, parents live in air conditioning, people work in air conditioning.  It makes for a better learning environment," Huff said.

Skeptics of the bond issue say they're nervous about the high price tag and want assurance the money would be well-spent.

Opponents question the necessity of the improvements and do not like for schools to close.

The SJSD says school closings are inevitable. 

"Hall Elementary, just like Neely, is over 100 years old," Steve Huff said.  "We got our money's worth out of it.  It's served us well. There are times when the schools are just inadequate to service children down there."

This issue is part of the initial phase of a much larger master plan aimed at overhauling the school district.

Kevin Kirby says it is just the first half of phase one, but the current plan would leave no project unfinished.

He notes that it would be good to install air conditioning in all schools. 

There is just not enough funding.

Future renovations will require more money, which could lead to other bond issue votes in the future.

The current proposed bond issue goes to a vote on April 3.

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