Third time’s the charm — or at least that’s what the Smithville School District is hoping.
This November, voters will have yet another opportunity to send more money the school district’s way, something they have turned down two times in the recent past.
This time around, the district has two issues on the ballot — a no-tax-increase bond issue, and a 79 cent tax levy increase.
If approved, the 79 cent levy issue will provide just over $20 million in funds for the construction and operation of an additional elementary school. The last time the levy increased was in 1997.
If the general obligation bond issue passes, the district will get about $12.5 million that will not come from a tax increase. The district’s debt service tax levy is estimated to stay the same at $1.0467 per $100 of assessed valuation.
The most recent general obligation bond was issued in 2010.
The district first asked residents for a tax levy increase in April 2013. At that time, they asked for a 92 cent bump.
“I think the very first time, it was too significant an increase for people,” said Wayne Krueger, assistant superintendent for support services. “We were just coming off the crash of the economy and it was just too much, but we still had a need.”
He said this last time, the plan just wasn’t quite appealing enough to voters. It lost by a few hundred votes.
“Folks just didn’t quite like the plan well enough,” Krueger said. “Before, we didn’t focus at all on remodeling or repurposing existing spaces. This time, we are touching every single building. Last time, we were simply focused in on building new space.”
The no-tax-increase bond will fund renovations at Smithville Primary Elementary School, Smithville Upper Elementary School, Smithville Middle School and Smithville High School. It would also pay for an expansion project at Smithville High School to provide more classroom and cafeteria spaces.
The tax levy increase would immediately go toward the construction and operation of a new elementary school.
Because of the lack of new funds, the district has been struggling with how to handle burgeoning class sizes.
“Since that time, basically we’ve started implementing our list of bad ideas,” Krueger said. “Every year there are more, and we get further along in that list.”
The “bad ideas list” includes adding mobile units — there are eight right now — generally increasing class sizes, and putting more classes onto carts.
District officials are more optimistic that their approach this time, as well as the less steep increase, will be more appealing to more people.
If it passes, the completion goal for the projects is fall of 2018.
But if it doesn’t pass, voters can expect to see funding requests on the ballot again.
“We’ll ask again, and we’ll continue to ask,” Krueger said. “We have to.”