The largest school district in Johnson County — in the Kansas City area, in fact — wants more money as it prepares to get even bigger.
Leaders of the Olathe district, which has nearly 30,000 students, are asking voters to approve a $156 million bond issue in a mail-in election that stretches from May 18 to June 7.
For a district that prides itself on good planning, it’s disconcerting that Olathe officials didn’t ask for some of these funds three years ago in another bond package. Voters easily endorsed that $245 million issue.
This time around, Olathe school leaders say they need close to a third of the new bond package to build a new middle school to reduce projected crowding in a few other schools.
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Other scheduled upgrades include installing more energy efficient windows and doors in older buildings, replacing outdated technological equipment and adding new floors in gymnasiums.
The bond issue has two main selling points beyond the need to constantly update educational facilities.
▪ It won’t require a property tax rate increase. The district is paying off other bonds and pledges to maintain a steady school levy if voters approve the 2016 bonds.
▪ Modern schools are a major amenity for Olathe School District patrons. As school officials say in their hard-sell “informational” piece on their website: “If the district is not viewed as being of high quality, economic growth slows and ultimately property values decline.”
That’s been part of the mantra in Johnson County for years, one that’s been borne out to a large degree.
The county’s population has surged by 8,000 to 10,000 people a year for decades. Parents who are willing and able to pay for good schools have flocked to the area.
In the next 45 days, Olathe school officials will find out whether they’ve made an adequate case for this new bond issue.