The bond issue
Bonds issues and property tax levies serve different functions. Bond issues, by law, can only fund construction, renovations, technology expenses, furniture and equipment. Levies are used to finance the daily operation and maintenance of schools.
Look for a story next week in the Columbia Missourian regarding citizen concerns about the bond issue. If you have any you would like to share, please send them to education editor Elizabeth Brixey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The $120 million bond issue proposed for the Columbia Public Schools would be used to improve buildings, construct a high school and elementary school, new gyms at Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools, improve technology, provide air conditioning and pay for interests and fees associated with this type of funding.
How it would work
The bond issue would not directly lead to tax increases, and, according to district handouts and presentations, a property tax levy increase is not planned to further fund operating costs and maintenance of facilities.
The bonding capacity is capped by law, so that the district's bond issue cannot exceed 15 percent of local assessed valuation of all state and local non-tax-exempt property in the district.
"We have considerable room before we reach that level," schools Superintendent Chris Belcher said.
District information says current property taxes would not be affected by approval of the bond issue, but the length of time the district repays bond debt would be extended. The district's debt service fund pays for bond debt based on revenue collected from local taxation and budgeted state aid. Belcher said bonds like this are typically are paid off over a 20 year period.
District's main points
The district maintains the bond issue is needed to implement goals adopted by the Columbia School Board, including easing overcrowding, improving spaces where students learn, increasing the life spans and efficiency of buildings and reducing the number of student grade level transitions — that is, phasing out junior high so kindergarten through fifth grade is elementary school, sixth through eighth grades are middle school and ninth through 12th grades are high school.
Pro-bond issue information from the district emphasizes that 164 trailers are used right now by 23 percent of all students. Current enrollment districtwide is 17, 419.
“We need to get ahead of the growth curve,” Belcher said, explaining enrollment is projected to grow by 700 to 1,000 new students in the next five years.
Concerns from the community include how the district would afford to run the new schools, grade-transition changes and the possibility of program losses.
A plan for a three-part bond issue, at $60 million each, came to the forefront a few years ago after a report from the district's Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee. This report said schools were impaired by crowding, a need for repairs and the use of trailers.
Voters approved phase one in 2007. Last year, interim Superintendent Jim Ritter recommended combining phases two and three into a single $120 million bond issue.
Much of the 2007 bond issue was used for: construction of Lewis Elementary School ($18.6 million), district technology improvements ($5 million), air conditioning (more than $7 million) and building enhancements ($7 million). If the April 6 bond issue is approved, $18 million of the 2007 bond issue would go toward new construction.
How the bond issue passes
The issue can be passed with a four-sevenths, or 57 percent, majority vote.
If it passes
Construction on the high school would begin June 1, Belcher said, and other projects such as air conditioning, roofing and technology would begin on a varied basis per building need. Belcher said that the funds to operate the new buildings for at least a couple of years would come from the district's reserves, which have been deliberately grown in anticipation of new facilities.
If it doesn't pass
Voters can expect bond issues to be proposed in the near future. If any emergency construction or maintenance came up, operating funds would be tapped, Belcher said.