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April election: Marshall school bond issue overview

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

(Photo)
This image shows plans and an artist's rendering of what a new elementary school might look like if voters approve a bond issue on the April 6 ballot.
(Contributed graphic)
After running a more conventional ballot issue campaign in the fall, only to have voters reject the bond issue in November, the Citizens for the School Bond committee is taking a different approach prior to the April election.

The bond issue, if approved, would allow the Marshall school district to buy land at the southeast corner of town and build a new three-grade elementary school, with room for additional buildings in the future.

Committee Chairman Wayne Crawford addressed the Marshall school board at its regular meeting Tuesday, March 23, and said the group opted for a lower-key, more personal approach.

Although the committee is again running newspaper and radio ads, the main focus will be on making contact with voters, he said.

"Last time, we tried to inform the public. We got the word out on what the board was trying to achieve and what this building was. People understood. We didn't need to sell that again," he said. "This time we decided to really go personal in this campaign."

Crawford added that he thinks voters are beginning to give the board credit for listening to them.

Several town hall meetings were held during the fall campaign, but an expanded schedule of similar public meetings, which included tours of school buildings, were held earlier this year.

Crawford said those meetings were well-attended, and people brought their questions and concerns to the committee's attention.

Several key changes in the proposed building project were made, some of them as a result of input from community members.

--The board selected a site at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Watermill Road owned by the Gieringer family, which has enough space to accommodate at least one more school building in addition to the proposed upper elementary building. The board's long-range plan calls for adding a second three-grade elementary school in about a decade.

--The board trimmed expenses, bringing the total cost of the project down to $16.8 million from the estimated $19-20 million the previous plan could have cost.

--Reducing estimated cost allowed the board to ask voters for a smaller tax increase. The debt service levy would be set at 67 cents per $100 assessed valuation. In the fall version, the board would have had to set the levy at about 80 cents.

The board also considered the option of renovating existing elementary schools and got plans and cost estimates from the construction management firm the district is working with.

After considering public input and the pros and cons of renovation, the board decided to stick with the new building plan.

Crawford told the board that at public meetings and in his conversations with individuals, he has gotten positive responses from those changes.

The Gieringer property is accessible but is not located on or near a major highway, as was the site chosen in the fall.

The reduction of the tax levy rate may help sway voters who are concerned about the economy.

Crawford said he was initially leery of trimming the project, but "I understand you've got to get a product that people can afford."

He also noted that voters who are interested in a return to neighborhood schools may be reassured by the fact that the district will shift from the current single-grade-plus-kindergarten arrangement to a more traditional multigrade scheme reminiscent of the neighborhood schools of the past.

That means all elementary schools will be multigrade.

The new school would house grades three through five, and the remaining three elementary schools would each house grades kindergarten through second.

Board member Teri Wright asked Crawford whether he thought people were concerned about state budget cuts affecting the new school project.

Crawford said some might have those concerns, but they are based on a misunderstanding of how school finances work.

"I do think it's hard for people to separate the running of the schools and the building of the building," he said. "They are totally separate entities. They don't touch each other in any way."

Crawford said he was encouraged by the feedback he's gotten recently and hopes the process of contacting voters personally will be enough to meet the 57-percent majority required to pass the issue. A similar bond issue failed three times from 2000 to 2003, but in November, the issue received more than 50 percent of the vote for the first time.

"We lost by 167 votes. If all of us who believe in this project can bring five people to the polls, we can win this," he said.

Contact Eric Crump at marshalleditor@socket.net

Related stories:
Previous stories:
www.marshallnews.com/topic/mpsdbond09
Levy impact on property owners:
www.marshallnews.com/story/1605983.html
Bond issue information provided by campaign committee:
www.marshallnews.com/story/1622624.html


Comments
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"I also really dislike the decision by the school district to keep putting this on the ballot over and over in hopes of getting lucky at least once and barely getting that required majority."

Hmmm....Health Office much?

-- Posted by OMG! on Thu, Apr 8, 2010, at 8:26 PM

voted down again! Will they take the hint or just keep putting it on the ballet till we get so sick of seeing it it just gets voted in? ENUFF is ENUFF stop trying to FORCE it on us. Spend less time looking for a way to make it pass and more time on a way to fix the schools we have.

-- Posted by Selmac8 on Wed, Apr 7, 2010, at 4:54 AM

Can you enlighten us, Hickory, about which particular items are so much more expensive here in Marshall?

-- Posted by Miss Marple on Tue, Apr 6, 2010, at 6:12 PM

What a mess! It is disturbingly telling that, with all of the issues facing our community, building a new school is what divides us the most. I think it's sad, really. Generally speaking, I try to not respond to the more colorful or off-the-wall posts, but the comment about "the reality of the scheme..." was too much. Really? This is a scheme?

How dare that manipulative school board try to provide better facilities for students and build a new school, or even more than one!!!

Wow.

According to this logic, our hospital should still be in a white, two-story house in the middle of a residential neighborhood, right? That building is still standing, so it should still be usable- right? But no! They built a new hospital. And then (with some nerve, too!!) they built another new one! With the 'scheme'-ing logic they should have just renovated, right?!?! But they didn't. Because, as appropriate as their facilities were when built; they had become sub-standard.

The fact of the matter is that sometimes improvements need to be made. We need more and larger classrooms, we need better technologies to better prepare our students. It needs to be done. Citizens asked, and the board followed through with the concerns that maybe renovations would be a better way to go. We found out that they are not. We can do what we need to do now, when it is needed, and take advantage of a limited time offer. Or we can wait. Wait until it is well over due and our students have fallen further behind. Wait until the amount of needed upgrades and expansions are even more numerous and expensive. Wait until the federal money isn't available. I'm aware of the financial situation we're all in. I'm also aware that it isn't going to get any better until we start acting like it is better; otherwise we're just going to perpetuate our current situation. I'm also aware that we may never have a better opportunity than now.

-- Posted by thebirdman on Sun, Apr 4, 2010, at 11:09 PM

Money spent for: Courthouse, 911 Center, Ambulance Building, Nicholas-B Museum, County Jail, County Health Building, Skate Park--which one will get used as much as a new school?

500 people a day will use the school. Programs, Conferences, Athletics, Community use. A positive impact on the community.

-- Posted by mu-grad on Sun, Apr 4, 2010, at 6:26 PM

This will be the cheapest time ever to fix the school building situation. In 10 years the price has doubled. Interest rates are low, federal money is here. When "the time is right" it will cost a lot more than doing it now.

-- Posted by mu-grad on Sat, Apr 3, 2010, at 8:58 PM

And to bring some full disclosure to the upcoming school bond issue this Tuesday. The reality of the scheme is that a vote to accept a new build option next week is only a down-payment on what the taxpayers will be asked to pay over the next several decades. With the approval of the bond issue, the school district gets a shiny gold VISA card which they will max out the credit limit on as they build the new school. As we pay down the $16.8M debt we will begin to hear the calls to build another building on the land 'we already own' and to continue the levy 'as we are already paying for it now.' We will be asked to continue this path of running up the debt levy maximum for an additional three or four more times, as the school board asks to replace each existing school building. Eventually all of the elementary schools will be replaced and we will be asked to replace the junior high school at the end of the pipeline. So for every voter going to the polls, you need to understand that in approving the $16.8M bond you are going to really be voting for a school bond that will likely run for near perpetuity in order to facilitate the scheme to replace all of the school buildings. Though the school board cannot ask for a bond amount to bite off the whole new school build enchilada in Tuesday's election (as the district has a legal maximum cap of roughly $20M that they cannot exceed), with a vote to approve the bond, you will most likely be signing yourself up for a bill that could come in over $60M-$70M when it is all over with. [These figures are just a guess as to what it will cost to build three or four additional new schools over the next two decades, given inflation, etc.] So the bigger picture is not just a one-time $16.8M gift for the one building but a big gift that will continue to gift over many years. And by the way, the existing schools will not be getting any maintenance money to improve their lot out of the bond issue as the funds are all tied to new building project.

As a voter, I like to know what I'm getting myself into when it comes to being asked to decide on big issues that impact my pocket book directly, especially given a pocketbook that is on a fixed income. All I ask is that there be due deliberation and an even discussion of the issues. It is my sense that we are getting a bit of a railroad job here from the powers to be in order to make the bond issues 5th, or 7th or 8th appearance (or whatever the number is for its appearance on the ballot) a successful one. This issue has become the dire emotional focus of so many people for such a long period of time that I believe it has clouded their vision and logic.

And for all the couch journalists who'll jump on my comments like white on rice and label me as an obstructionist, I want to say that I support our schools and their future. I see a better path in the approach of renovation and expansion of the existing schools, coupled with return to the neighborhood approach. Needless to say the rehab model has no support within the board leadership. And though the board says that they will return to the neighborhood approach when the new school building is completed, in the future this model is going to break down as well. With movement of elementary schools to a single campus, there is no longer a neighborhood customer to service, making the issue moot.

As a reminder to all voters as well, please note the Democrat-News recent article listing the new talent vying for your votes to get on the school board. Make your vote count there as well and bring some much-needed change to the board membership.

-- Posted by oceanlord49 on Sat, Apr 3, 2010, at 7:30 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
You assessment of the situation is accurate, but it's not a secret. Board members and district officials have stated a number of times in recent months that the long-range plan is to continue building. The grade 3-5 school is the just the first.

www.marshallnews.com/story/1605368.html

www.marshallnews.com/story/1610331.html

That's a big part of why I support this, mu-grad. It's not just good for the kids and teachers. It's good for the town. A school board member told me the project manager has been directed to set things up so local contractors have a fair shot at every job. And the design calls for precast concrete (Coreslab!).

I know people want to hunker down when times are bad, but if you STAY hunkered down, times just get worse. The economy needs ACTIVITY in order to recover. This is what the federal stimulus program should have been all about. BUILD stuff to generate jobs and create things of value that will last.

Are we gonna be paralyzed with fear because the economy's bad, or are we going to DO something about it?

-- Posted by taxedpayer on Sat, Apr 3, 2010, at 9:14 AM

Better location. It will stimulate the economy in Marshall. More community activities possible. I see Chillicothe is voting on a Pre-K-1-2 building for about $15 million-they want the Federal money also. Let's not fall so far behind.

-- Posted by mu-grad on Sat, Apr 3, 2010, at 8:48 AM

I am retired. Fixed income. I think I can afford 28 cents a day for the new school. This crap about debt, debt, debt is bs. Wake Up America.

-- Posted by red dog on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 7:40 PM

Red Witch: I count 14 articles about the bond in the paper in the past 3 months. If the board is trying to hide something, they aren't doing a very good job!

I just went to that featured topic link on the front web page. There's about a bazillion stories there.

-- Posted by taxedpayer on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 6:25 PM

Scarpetta,

I'm with you on this one. I wish we could afford this plan and I know that we need new schools.

I also know that to take on this increased tax burden at this time would be one of the most irresponsible things we could do.

Hopefully within a few years, the economy will be stronger and moving in the right direction. Right now? I will be voting "no".

M

-- Posted by missy08 on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 6:03 PM

How come we didn't see much about the school bond issue that will be voted on this coming Tuesday, April 6? Was the school board trying to sneak the bond approval past the voters with only the supporters being kept abreast of issues? Was the school board afraid that the voters will put together the cost of the new school and the cost of making up the funding that the state has cut from Marshall Public and turn it down once again? Why the silence? And the school board wonders why the public does not trust them! Naming it a low key campaign, really, don't you mean sneaky?

Then, the plan to go back to multi-grade schools for the students K-2. People it is not the same as the multi-grade school that we all remember! Just because you live close to Northwest and are in grades K-2, does not mean that will be the school that you will attend. Oh no, we have to consider ethnic diversity, economic conditions, etc. All the students K-2 will be in a large group and will be assigned and bused to an assigned school so that there will be the same number of students from each ethnic group, economic background, etc at each school. Remember, a multi-grade school is not the same as your local school just down the street.

If this passes, we are going to close one school and take on a 16 million dollar debt to build one school with the promise of in ten years taking on more debt to build another school? Debt, debt, debt!

-- Posted by Red Witch on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 5:51 PM

For the record let me clarify a few things, in a speak out section I listed 8 or so reason I believe the bond issue didn't pass. Those were based on my personal feelings on the issues and yes the last location was awful in my opinion. Now do I feel this location is better? Yes I do.

May cause? Really? It WILL cause. This is my problem with the "your taxes will go up" motto that is being thrown around. It is crap, plain and simple. Everything will go up in this town because...business owners will increase cost on goods to compensate for the extra cost. I think every voter has the right to know this.

Things never do change in Marshall, and never will because of the cult like agenda in this town. I don't think a shiny new school will change that, could I be wrong? Maybe...but not likely.

I do have school age kids, and I do believe I have said in the past new schools are needed. I still believe that. However I don't think a new school will make the schools better and that should be the focus. In my personal opinion the schools in this town have went down hill since I graduated from MHS.

As a catch all here, just because it is the right time to build does not mean it is the right time to raise taxes. They are not one in the same, the house always wins. In this case the house is the government, they make money on the low interest while we the tax payers get kicked while we are down.

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 4:55 PM

SmartDog:

Thanks to jumping to more conclusions without any facts. Still haven't learned, eh? I don't even know what MSIP is, but I can tell when someone is just throwing out statements without checking their accuracy. This is the Show-Me State, after all.

Luckily I was able to Google the DESE site and find out how wrong you were.

-- Posted by fvsol on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 4:51 PM

This land costs $9000.00 an acre? Why so much when other land is going less?

-- Posted by Polka Dot on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 4:28 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
The Gieringer property was less per acre than the other two finalist sites, one of which was $10,000 per acre and the other $17,500. If memory serves, none of the properties put forward in the fall or winter selection processes cost less than $9,000 per acre.

fvsol,

My bad on teacher salaries, but apparently I struck a nerve there, eh? I guess the school board members who tell me our teacher pay is in the top third of the state are fibbing. Should know better than to believe them, huh? Also, is that data for public Class 4 schools, or all schools, including private?

With your intimate familiarity with the district MSIP you must be a district employee. Any personal agenda here? Shouldn't you be teaching my kid, or working on lesson plans, or something?

And regarding other districts, 5 wrongs don't make a right. Perhaps those districts had no one to point out the lack of need, only want. My point is that this is a costly tax increase and is unwarranted at this time.

I didn't say it earlier, but I also really dislike the decision by the school district to keep putting this on the ballot over and over in hopes of getting lucky at least once and barely getting that required majority. Kind of subverts the democratic process when you resort to "wearing down" the voters, doesn't it?

If it takes getting lucky with low turnout to get the measure to pass, then is it really something that has the true support of the local population. My personal opinion is that we have a small, vocal minority that hopes to win with low overall turnout.

-- Posted by Smart Dog on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 4:23 PM

SmartDog:

Please don't let the facts get in the way of your arguments. Do you not think people will call you out on it?

You said, "After all, we have a salary scale well above the statewide average." Dead wrong.

2009 Marshall Avg. Teacher Salary: $39,541

2009 Missouri Avg. Teacher Salary: $44,249

http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/ST09...

You also said this: "All other towns that have built new schools in the recent past have had a corresponding population increase, and therefore increased tax base to pay for it."

Let's see how accurate you are. Marshall Public Schools have 37 more students than we had five years ago. That's a little more than a 1.5% increase. http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/DD09...

Here are area districts that have passed bond issues:

Sweet Springs has increased its student population by 0.69% over the five years. Yes, less than one percent. A whopping three students. They're building a new school. http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/0971...

Slater has 11% LESS students now than they did five years ago--they've lost 46 students over the past five years. They passed a bond issue. http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/DD09...

Lexington: They have experienced a decreased enrollment every year for five years. 7.5% of their student enrollment has left their district since 2005, but they passed a bond issue. http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/DD05...

Boonville: They have a decreased enrollment over each of the last two years, but slightly more than five years ago. http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/DD02...

Santa Fe: Lost 2.6% of its enrollment since 2005.

http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/DD05...

Chillicothe: Lost 1.1% of its enrollment since 2005. http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/DD05...

Sedalia has the most significant increase (4.6%), and they tried for decades to get a bond issue passed before finally getting it done a few years ago. http://dese.mo.gov/planning/profile/DD08...

-- Posted by fvsol on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 2:37 PM

Scarpetta,

Last time it was location!!!!

This time it's the increase in prices that a tax hike may cause!

You know I have seen you post about how things in Marshall always stay the same but you never seem to want to help change things here.

You have said you have school age kids so how can you not see we need new schools in Marshall?

WTF your never going to vote for a new school, myself I think it's because you don't have any kids so you don't want to pay for something that does you no good!!!!

Smartdog if you owned a business and was looking for a place to located a new part of that business do you think it would help if you saw a town that was willing to invest some of their own money to improve their town?

Night Sky what part of this process has been dirty politics?

-- Posted by OldOwlFan on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 12:28 PM

Smart Dog, thanks for not having the blinders on. You see the bigger picture, and I thank you for that. In addition to what you said...goods will be going up all over town to help offset this increase.

So we won't just pay our taxes and that is it...we will be paying in taxes for places we shop also. I asked before what Walmart's increase would be (I can't remember what it is or which story I asked it on)...it is hefty...I am sure they won't be sucking up that expense. Their always low prices will be always going a bit higher...again.

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 10:01 AM

Do the yes voters realize we will still have those "old dilapidated buildings that cost us a fortune to operate" in addition to this new tax to pay for, right?

This plan does not lower our overall costs to operate the district, it increases them significantly. Please keep that in mind. How do we justify the additional cost to operate a school district that has not seen a population increase in years? Inflation? I believe this is the sort of thing that causes inflation.

All other towns that have built new schools in the recent past have had a corresponding population increase, and therefore increased tax base to pay for it. We do not enjoy that advantage here.

Growth in the community has to come first.

And I still say that the worst recession in 80 years is no time to vote for tax increases at this level. Seems like a pretty simple concept, however, those not affected by this downturn don't see the issue. Of course teachers and district employees and relatives support the bond issue, they make a living from the school district.

Just for fun, would the teachers and administrators of the school district take a pay-cut that would equal the amount of bond levy in order to pay for the new building? After all, we have a salary scale well above the statewide average. I realize that will seem ridiculous to some, yet additional taxes paid take away from the income of the taxpayer.

Plus, this is not an insignificant tax increase. Area farmers will be hit pretty hard, some will see taxes increase in the thousands a year. My personal situation will yield a $600 a year increase. Trust me, I ain't rich. I'm about a middle income as they get.

We really don't need a new school, some of us just want one. Let's get back to essentials, and see if we can't stay away from the desirables for a bit, eh? Personally, I would rather have good, well paid teachers than new shiny buildings. I have always heard that the teachers make the school, not the buildings.

-- Posted by Smart Dog on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 9:40 AM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
You may be right about increased operating costs, but for what it's worth, district officials have said they don't expect that to happen because with the addition of a new building (presumably easier to maintain for several decades) will come the retirement of an old, high-maintenance building.

I will vote YES because of the change in location of new school, the assurance that the we will get rid of the "one grade-one school" concept and have each existing elementary school K-2, the chance that we still may be able to take advantage of federal stimulus money, and it will put more people to work.

-- Posted by izaak on Thu, Apr 1, 2010, at 11:12 PM

why only three grade leavels why not 1-4 grade in the new building k-grade in the best old school building the would be four different schools instead of 7 or 8 think people

-- Posted by mtshell08 on Thu, Apr 1, 2010, at 9:51 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
The district's bonding capacity is about $20 million. It's not enough to build a four-grade school. The plan calls for building a K-2 building next, and following that, replace or renovate the middle school and eventually the high school. Four school buildings.

WTF is right. Personal campaign means targeting the yes voters. Hasn't anyone noticed there are no yard signs this time? And there has been not one word from the group, citizens for the school bond. Remember all the posts last fall? We were bombarded with campaign information, posts and signs. This time, nada.

Still, I think I'm voting yes even though I think their politics have been dirty. It's the change in location that does it for me. I want to go over the information thoroughly though before Tuesday.

-- Posted by Night Sky on Thu, Apr 1, 2010, at 8:28 PM

Theie not going to come right out and say that.

"We're counting on voter apathy" It is part of the plan though. Low voter turn out of which they hope the majority will be supporters. It's politics 101.

-- Posted by What the f...... on Thu, Apr 1, 2010, at 7:30 PM

I'm wondering if we read the same article. Crawford said the campaign is going to personal contact in an effort to get out the vote. Doesn't sound like banking on low turnout to me.

-- Posted by taxedpayer on Thu, Apr 1, 2010, at 7:20 PM

It's very quiet about this lately. Guess therr banking on low voter turn out of only supporters to get this passed. I'm voting no, for now.

-- Posted by What the f...... on Thu, Apr 1, 2010, at 7:05 PM


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