Park Hill’s $110 million bid leads way among area school bond elections

Voters in 10 area school school districts on Tuesday, April 4, will decide whether to borrow millions for new school buildings or renovations.
Voters in 10 area school school districts on Tuesday, April 4, will decide whether to borrow millions for new school buildings or renovations. KRT

New buildings, renovated classrooms and storm shelters highlight many of the bond issues several Kansas City area districts have placed before voters in Tuesday’s election.

In most cases, the districts have been refinancing existing bonds so voters can approve new bonds without seeing an increase in their tax rates.

The bond issues will need a four-sevenths majority — 57.1 percent approval — to pass.

Here is a list of those bond issues and a short summary on how the money would be spent.

Park Hill: The district is seeking the largest bond issue among area districts, with plans for a new elementary school and new middle school highlighting its bid for $110 million.

Enrollment in the district, now serving 11,218 students, has been growing about 2 percent per year. The district says it has waited until it had to put some classrooms in temporary, mobile units before asking voters to take on more debt.

“We want actual students showing up in our schools before we spend taxpayer money,” Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd said in an email to The Star. “That is why we have students in mobile classrooms … but this is not a long-term solution.”

By refinancing existing bonds, the district would be able to issue the $110 million in new bonds without a tax increase.

The district would be building its 11th elementary school and its fourth middle school.

Other projects proposed for the bond issue include an innovation studio for high school students, a larger support services facility and classroom improvements across the district. The district also would build a transportation facility if economic conditions leave enough of the bond revenue in reserve.

Independence: Voters are being asked to approve a no-tax-increase, $38 million bond issue that would build an elementary school and enhance high school classrooms for science, technology, engineering, math, culinary, vocational and business coursework.

District plans are to build the new school at 31st Street and Hardy Avenue for 450 students and open it in 2019.

Truman High School would get new classrooms, science labs and a remodeled lunchroom; Van Horn High School would get five new commercial kitchens, remodeled science classrooms and physical therapy and athletic training classroom space, plus a new gym; and William Chrisman High School would add four classrooms, a weight room, remodeled science rooms, and physical therapy and athletic training space.

Kearney: The district is putting a $27 million bond issue before its voters that would not increase their tax rate. Projects would include new classrooms, a new gymnasium and security for the high school; new and renovated classrooms in the junior high and middle school; playground safety enhancements in the elementary schools; and a new early childhood center.

Belton: A $20 million no-tax-increase bond issue would pay for a 90,000-square-foot construction project that will bring freshmen students onto the Belton High School campus. The addition would include 25 classrooms and administrative and counseling office space. Also to be built: a new performing arts center, gym and aquatics center. Bond money also would pay for ball field lighting and additional parking.

Fort Osage: The district has two questions on the ballot. The first seeks nearly $11.4 million in bonds to build an early childhood center and to improve the district stadium, including an eight-lane track, bathrooms, a concession area and about 800 bleacher seats. The district also would put new playgrounds at five elementary schools and replace the roofs of several schools.

The second question is a 67-cent increase in the district’s operating levy; it would require a simple majority to pass. The district says it needs the increase to manage rising costs and balance its budget.

The current levy, $5.70 per $100 assessed valuation, would rise to $6.37, compared to $5.91 in neighboring Independence, $6.32 for Raytown, $6 for Lee’s Summit and $4.96 for Kansas City.

Grandview: District officials say a $9 million no-tax-increase bond issue would pay for safety and security upgrades; heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements; window and roof replacement; parking lot improvements; classroom and restroom renovations; athletic facility upgrades; and new music instruments.

North Platte: The district seeks $6.2 million in bonds. The bond issue would not increase the current tax rate but would extend the district’s levy for debt service by 12 years.

The district wants to make major renovations to the junior high school, including new classrooms, administration offices, a new band room and other upgrades. The district wants to repair the roof and facade of the high school and upgrade its heating and cooling system. Elementary schools need foundation and roof repairs, the district says.

Lone Jack: The district seeks a no-tax-increase $3.75 million bond issue that would add five classrooms to its middle and high school. It also would pay for a corridor between the high school and its agriculture building. The district also wants to build a storm shelter that would serve the high school and have a separate shelter area for residents.

Midway: A $3.7 million bond issue would renovate classrooms, pave gravel parking lots, replace heating and cooling systems in gymnasiums, increase building security and renovate hallways, a kitchen and cafeteria.

Passing the bonds would increase the district’s tax levy for debt service by 15 cents, from 67 to 82 cents, equaling an annual tax increase of about $28.50 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Strasburg: A no-tax-increase $1.2 million bond issue would pay for a storm shelter room that would double as the band room, and add two classrooms to serve growing enrollment. The district also wants to pave a parking lot and put down a rubber surface on its playground.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc