With a growing student population putting pressure on all the schools in the Carthage R-9 District, the Board of Education is very close to deciding to put an $18 million bond issue before voters in the April 2014 election.
The Board agreed to allow the firm of George K. Baum & Co., to pay for a survey of Carthage district patrons to be conducted over the phone in the next couple of weeks to get some idea of what patrons would like the district to do if voters approved a bond issue.
Greg Bricker, with George K. Baum & Co., said an $18 million bond issue could be paid for without increasing the district's current 83-cent debt service levy, a point administration and board members repeated and emphasized a number of times during the meeting.
Superintendent Blaine Henningsen said the district must address a growing shortage of classroom space caused by rapid growth in the number of students in the district.
“Since we moved into the high school in 2009 we've grown by 350 students,” Henningsen said in a telephone interview after the meeting. “That's a good sized elementary school. Our largest class is the kindergarten and first grade and those students will move up through the elementary schools and middle schools and we're just trying to get out ahead of the growth.”
Henningsen said the district's top need is classroom space, but administrators believe an $18 million bond issue would pay to address those needs with between $2 million and $3 million left over.
He said the telephone survey of around 400 patrons would help the district find out what the public would like to see the district build with that money.
“We want to avoid overcrowding issues in the classrooms but beyond that we can do a couple of other projects that we've been talking about for years,” Henningsen said. “We've talked about a new football stadium and tennis courts at the high school, a performing arts center similar to the R-9 Auditorium at the junior high out at the high school, or maybe fixing up the baseball field. We've identified about $30 million to $35 million in needed improvements, but we can't afford to do them all without raising the debt service levy, and we don't want to do that.”
Board President Lee Elliff Pound asked patrons to watch their caller ID for a number with an 816 area code and be sure to answer that call and take the survey.
She said it was the patrons' chance to have a say in what the district does with taxpayer money.
Any bond issue would need four-sevenths, or 57 percent approval if placed before voters at one of three regularly scheduled elections in 2014. The first of these is April 2014.
In other business, the board approved hiring an architect to draw up plans for an 11,000 square-foot Early Childhood Education Center to be located on district-owned property on Fairview Avenue east of Grand Avenue.
Page 2 of 2 - Henningsen said this building would be separate from the bond issue and be paid for with federal money devoted to Title One and early childhood education.
He said the new center would include seven classrooms, a multi-purpose room built to FEMA standarts as a tornado safe room, specialty rooms to house speech and physical therapy functions and other needs.
The building would bring the district's Parents As Teachers, Title One Preschool and Early Childhood Special Education programs under one roof for the first time, a topic discussed at the Board's September meeting.
Henningsen said the district would build this building with local money, then get reimbursed by the federal Department of Education.