816 North

North Kansas City School District takes bond and levy requests to voters

Updated: 2014-01-21T22:22:03Z

By JILL SEDERSTROM

Special to The Star

Residents in the North Kansas City School District could soon see higher taxes.

The North Kansas City School District’s board of education unanimously voted Tuesday night to place a $20 million bond issue along with a $0.26 tax levy increase on the April 8 ballot.

Superintendent Todd White said if voters approve the bond issue, the money would be used to address capacity, safety, security and maintenance issues.

Money generated from the levy increase would be used to continue current programming and to provide programming for the growing number of students expected in the district in the coming years.

District residents last approved a $21 million bond issue and $0.27 levy increase in 2007. Since then board member Terry Ward said the district has been growing at a rate of about 300 students a year, while also experiencing a loss in assessed valuation.

“There’s a point at which the demand for services cannot be met by cutting activities,” he said. “We are at the point where we cannot avoid the realities.”

Paul Harrell, the district’s chief financial officer, said that since the last bond issue was passed the district has lost about $270 million in assessed valuation or property values.

“We really had to cut and reallocate our existing programming just to absorb that loss,” he said.

If the bond issue is approved, Harrell said it would generate an additional $5.6 million for the district.

For the owner of a home assessed at $200,000, approval of the bond issue would mean an additional $143 a year in taxes.

In addition, the levy increase is expected to generate about $4.6 million for the district. If approved, this would mean an additional $116 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home.

Before deciding Tuesday night on the final bond election and levy amounts, White said the district had considered bond packages as high as $80 million and levy increases as high as $0.57.

He said the board’s desire to be good stewards of tax money, as well as input from a community involvement committee, helped district officials arrive at the final package presented Tuesday night.

The package does not include money to add on to schools or build new ones, but it does include funding to convert some elementary and middle school computer labs back into regular classrooms to help alleviate capacity concerns. The bond package would also include money to update safety and security in the district, including making more secure entrances and visitor check-in procedures, installing cameras at district elementary and middle schools and updating lighting.

Additional money would go toward building maintenance, such as new carpet, HVAC updates and roof replacements, that the district has been deferring in recent years to save money.

White said the district has done its best in the past to achieve a balanced budget that met the needs of the growing district despite losing revenue without asking taxpayers for help.

“I just want people to understand in some of the most challenging economic times we’ve been able to restrict our budget,” he said, adding that the district also did its best to maximize revenues. “We now need assistance and so now it’s our task to inform the public.”

To pass, the bond issue would need to earn approval from 57.1 percent of voters.

The levy increase requires only a simple majority.

White said the district plans to spend the next few months increasing awareness about the bond and levy election.

“I believe that people that are informed make good decisions,” he said.

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