Ballots will be mailed out Wednesday in the largest mail-in election in Johnson County’s history, according to Brian Newby, Johnson County election commissioner.
About 330,000 ballots will be sent to voters in five of the county’s six school districts asking for approval to extend the local option budget to support local school districts. Spring Hill does not have what’s commonly called an LOB.
Additionally, the Shawnee Mission School District is asking voters to approve a $223 million bond issue to pay for new schools, renovations, school safety and security and technology.
Voters have until noon Jan. 27 to return the mail-in ballots to the Johnson County Election Office. High-speed scanners used for the first time in Kansas and 50 part-time workers will tabulate the ballots, he said.
“It’s going to be a tidal wave,” Newby said. “We’re estimating we’ll receive an average of 10,000 ballots daily.”
The election marks the first time Shawnee Mission has conducted a mail-in election. Both Olathe and Blue Valley have conducted successful mail-in ballot elections in the past.
The LOB is locally raised money used to supplement state funding for school district operating expenses, such as salaries. State statute requires a mail-in vote on the local option measure.
Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley, Olathe and DeSoto school districts are asking voters to keep the LOB authority at 33 percent of the district’s general fund. The Kansas Legislature last year allowed districts to increase their LOB from 31 percent to 33 percent for a year until patrons voted to keep the increase.
Gardner-Edgerton is asking voters to increase the LOB to 33 percent from 30 percent.
For the county’s three largest districts, the additional 2 percent will generate more than $10 million in operating funds; specifically, $3 million for Blue Valley, $3.9 million for Shawnee Mission and $4 million for Olathe.
“This is our last opportunity to boost the local option budget by 2 percent,” said Leigh Anne Neal, Shawnee Mission School District spokeswoman. “A formal vote of the public is required to maintain our local funding.”
John Hutchison, Olathe schools chief finance and operations officer, agreed.
“It’s important to maintain the funding level in our growing school district in order to meet our needs,” Hutchison said. “And since classroom funding is down, it’s even more important that we secure this funding.”
School districts have been spreading the word about the mail-in elections through social media, public forums, emails and newsletters. A public forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Shawnee Mission West High School and 7 p.m. today at Blue Valley North High School.
District officials reported receiving positive feedback regarding the LOB election.
“We are fortunate to have patrons who are very supportive of schools,” said Kristi McNerlin, director of communications for the Blue Valley School District. “Our biggest concern is voters being complacent. When people receive the ballots they need to mark them and mail them in so they don’t get misplaced or lost.”
Neal said patrons’ reactions have been positive regarding Shawnee Mission’s proposed $233 million bond issue. She noted that the bond proposal requires no property tax increase.
If approved, the bond money would be used for safety and security projects for all of the district’s school buildings; continuation of the district’s technology initiative; replacement of the district’s 20-year-old air-conditioning systems; and razing and rebuilding five elementary school buildings in the five high school feeder areas: Rhein Benninghoven, Crestview, Trailwood, Briarwood and an undetermined school in the West feeder area.
Also proposed is a state-of-the-art aquatics center at Shawnee Mission South High School. Concerns about the fate of the school’s 45-year-old outdoor environmental lab were alleviated last month when the district selected a different location for the aquatics center.
Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson announced at the December school board meeting that an architect’s report indicated the aquatics center could be constructed at the south end of the high school stadium, away from the environmental lab on the east side.
Neal said the report indicated that the stadium at Shawnee Mission South could be renovated rather than torn down, allowing the aquatic center to be constructed adjacent to the stadium. “This was always the preferred location,” she said.
More than 1,200 people had signed a petition asking the school district to find a different location for the aquatic center.
Other projects the proposed bond measure would fund:
▪ Separate cafeterias and gyms in each elementary school.
▪ Remodeling to make full-service kitchens in all schools, so that all food would be prepared where it is served.
▪ Install Taraflex floors in all elementary school gyms that have carpet.
▪ Move early education sites comprising three or four classrooms to each of the district’s five high school feeder areas, and raze the Shawnee Mission Instructional Support Center.
▪ Replace practice field turf at high schools and middle schools.
▪ Replace roofs, and floor and ceiling tiles. All buildings will need some degree of work on these items.
▪ Upgrade the little theaters in all high schools.
▪ Upgrade furniture and media centers.
“Shall the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 512, Johnson County, State of Kansas, be authorized to maintain its local option budget authority at 33% of its state financial aid and that this authorization be continuous and permanent?”
“Shall Unified School District No. 512, Johnson County, Kansas (Shawnee Mission), issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $223,000,000, to purchase and improve sites, to acquire, construct, equip, furnish, repair, remodel and make additions to buildings used for school district purposes, including the addition of new school buildings and other improvements, and all other necessary appurtenances and improvements related thereto, and to pay fees and expenses related thereto; all pursuant to the provisions of K.S.A. 10-101 et seq.; K.S.A. 25-431 et seq.; K.S.A. 25-2018(f); and K.S.A. 72-6761?”
“Shall the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 229, Johnson County, State of Kansas, be authorized to maintain its local option budget authority at 33% of its state financial aid and that this authorization be continuous and permanent?”
“Shall the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 233, Johnson County, State of Kansas, be authorized to maintain its local option budget authority at 33% of its state financial aid and this authorization be continuous and permanent?”
“Shall the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 231, Johnson & Miami Counties, State of Kansas, be authorized to increase its local option budget authority by an additional 3% (from 30% to 33%) of its state financial aid?”
“Shall the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 232, Johnson County, State of Kansas, be authorized to maintain its local option budget authority at 33% of its state financial aid and this authorization be continuous and permanent?”