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TODAY'S QUESTION: Will voters pass Columbia Public Schools' $120 million bond issue?

Friday, January 15, 2010 | 2:14 p.m. CST

In April 2008, voters turned down a proposed 54-cent tax levy increase for Columbia Public Schools. Many attributed the rejection to voter frustration with former Superintendent Phyllis Chase and initial lack of public involvement in deciding where to put the next high school.

Lack of full communication with the public, an appearance of closed-door decisions and a top-heavy administration were the main complaints against Chase's administration and the Columbia School Board, according to previous Missourian reporting.

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Chase announced her retirement the following August after five years with the district.

Columbia voters generally support school requests. Since 1980, three school tax levy measures out of nine have failed — in 1996, 1998 and 2008. The most recent school bond issue, for $60 million, was in 2007, and 76 percent of residents approved it.

The School Board recently approved putting a $120 million bond issue on the April 6 ballot. If passed, most of the money will be used to build a high school and elementary school.

The board and administration have said the money would be used in the following ways:

About $75 million would go toward the new high school and $15 million would be spent for the elementary school, which would be the second new one in recent years; Lewis Elementary School, which absorbed most students and teachers from the now-closed Field Elementary School, opened this month. Another $7.5 million would go toward a gymnasium project for Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools.

Are voters likely to support the $120 million bond issue? To what extent is the new  district leadership winning back the public's trust?


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