After a tax increase was defeated at the polls last year, supporters of the Smithville School District are out in full force to get one passed next month.
With space so tight that closets are being transformed into classrooms, they’re campaigning hard before Election Day.
“The reason we came back so quickly is because our needs have stayed the same, and elementary schools are critical, and we don’t have the flexibility at the elementary level,” said Wayne Krueger, assistant superintendent for support services.
District enrollment, which now stands at 2,515 students, has grown more than 20 percent since 2005-06 when 2,070 students were enrolled.
To pay for the extra space, the district is asking voters to raise the property tax levy for the first time since 1997. The rate would rise by 79 cents for each $100 of assessed property value, adding $150.10 a year to the tax bill on a $100,000 home.
Along with other improvements, the revenue would allow the district to build a third elementary school that would open in the fall of 2016.
“I don’t see it as a levy increase but an investment in our future,” Krueger said. “And in our future, I mean an investment in our kids and their future.”
Krueger also said that higher taxes are likely to translate into higher property values because of the quality of the school system.
A campaign has been mounted by a group called Smithville Power of One. It was organized by Kristin Turner and Michelle Kruse at smithvillepowerofone.org.
“Space is essential right now,” said Kruse, who has children who attend classes in the district. “We’re out of space in our elementary schools and our middle schools, and I want my kids to have the absolute best education possible.”
Some patrons have been upset about the recent move to dismiss Smithville High School principal Rudy Papenfuhs on grounds that he violated district policies, but backers of the tax question are urging voters keep the two issues separate. Papenfuhs resigned last week.