Columbia School Board supports proposed Community Improvement District on Business Loop 70

Thursday, February 20, 2014 | 5:03 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board agreed Thursday that President Christine King will vote in favor of a proposed Community Improvement District along Business Loop 70 when the district receives a ballot in March.

The CID would be along Business Loop 70 between College Avenue on the east and Interstate 70 on the west. If 51 percent of property owners approve the creation of the CID, sales taxes in that area would increase by 0.5 percent.

Tom May, who works for MFA Oil Co., said at the board's Feb. 10 meeting that this increase would raise the sales tax on that stretch of Business Loop 70 to the same rate as the rest of Columbia.

An improvement district board would administer the funds raised from the increase in taxes. Business leaders have suggested projects such as beautifying the area, burying power lines and addressing safety concerns along Business Loop 70.

The School Board is eligible to vote on the CID because it owns Hickman High School, at Providence Road and Business Loop 70. Hickman High School is the only Columbia public school that would be affected by the district.

Jack Miller, president of True Media, which is on the part of Business Loop 70 that the CID would affect, said at the morning meeting that the ballot will be mailed to the School Board in early March.

If approved, it would be the second CID in Columbia. The other district covers downtown Columbia, according to May.

The board vote to support the CID was unanimous, with member Helen Wade absent. Later, she joined the meeting via Skype for a discussion of legislative issues.

Update: superintendent search

The board heard from King on the status of the search for a new superintendent. Sixteen people have applied for the position, and right now those names have not been made public. The four-week window for the application process allowed more candidates to apply, she said.

Bob Watkins of the Missouri School Boards' Association, head of the superintendent search commission, will conduct background checks for the next seven to 10 days, King said, and the board will meet with Watkins to discuss the interview process.

The board moved into a closed executive session immediately after the work session to discuss the superintendent issue, member James Whitt said.

Superintendent Chris Belcher announced his retirement Jan. 8 and will retire effective June 30. He plans to take a position with MU's College of Education.

3M grant approved

The board also approved a $20,000 grant for Columbia Public Schools. A portion of the grant, provided by 3M Co., will go to Rock Bridge High School for a new science program studying criminalistics, which is the use of scientific techniques to analyze physical evidence in crimes.

Rock Bridge students will learn about accident analysis, DNA analysis and toxicology, according to Mike Szydlowski, district coordinator of science programs.

3M Co., a worldwide supply company that produces products such as Scotch tape and Post-it notes, has supplied grants to Columbia Public Schools for close to 30 years, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

Legislative issues

Belcher led a discussion about the legislative issues brought up at a meeting of the Missouri School Boards' Association in Jefferson City. Belcher attended the meeting along with board members Whitt, Jan Mees, Darin Preis and Jonathan Sessions.

Belcher said Gov. Jay Nixon spoke for half an hour at the meeting.

Belcher voiced concern over a Missouri House panel's endorsement of $100 million in K-12 school district funding increases for the 2015 state budget. Nixon had earlier sought $278 million in increases.

"I was really disappointed to hear that the House didn't give him a lot of credit," Belcher said.

Linda Quinley, chief financial officer for the district, said the uncertainty will make this coming year the toughest in terms of budget.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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