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Numerous bond issue presentations for April ballot

Sunday, February 28, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 4:36 p.m. CST, Monday, March 1, 2010

A long-term bond issue for Columbia Public Schools was conceived in three phases. Voters approved phase one in 2007. However, phases two and three have been combined into a single, $120 million bond issue, which is on the ballot April 6. An earlier version of this story was misleading on this point.

COLUMBIA—If you haven't heard about the bond issue by now, chances are you will by April 6. 

The leaders of Columbia Public Schools are doing their best to educate the community about the issue by making approximately 130 presentations before the vote appears on the ballot in early April. District leaders began making the presentations to school and community groups in mid-January.

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The presentations about the $120 million dollar bond issue are designed to answer questions from the community and highlight benefits of the proposal that will need 57 percent of votes to pass.

As the second phase of a multi-year plan, the first phase of which was approved in 2007,  the bond issue is designed to address five areas: building improvements, construction, air conditioning, technology and interest and fees associated with the funding. Out of this plan, the biggest projects would be the construction of a new high school and the two new gyms at Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools.

By law, the bond issue can only provide funding for these types of projects, not salaries, benefits or supplies.

At Superintendent Chris Belcher's latest presentation at the Boone County Muleskinners weekly meeting on Friday, he stated that the current economic environment has made this the "perfect time to go for the bond issue."

Belcher went on to say that bond issues are "about the future" and the expectation is that in the future, the district will see increased numbers of students. He explained that construction costs are low because of the economic state and this makes it a positive time to create the needed space for growing numbers of students.

The presentation shown at some of the meetings highlighting the talking points of the presentations is available on the bond issue page of the district's Web site. An "Election Update: Questions and Answers" handout is also given out at the presentations.

The material provided by the district points to the need to reduce overcrowding and prepare for the 1,000 new students projected to enter the district over the next five years. If the bond issue is passed, the current plan calls for the new high school to open its doors in 2013.

Although the district can't advocate a "yes" vote on the ballot issue legally, it can inform the community about the issue. And as the schedule stands currently, there are another 50 presentations to be made to school and community organizations before the April vote.


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