Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bond issue opponents state case

March 6, 2008

Before the Baldwin School Board makes its decision on a bond issue recommendation, opponents of the bond and a tax increase wanted the board to hear their opinions.

Although another tax increase isn't favored by bond issue opponents, they also don't feel the district needs to build any new facilities.

"This is just not a good time for a bond issue," said Ralph Tanner, former Baker University president and state representative, who resides in Baldwin City. "They need to make due with what they have. We've had two bonds within recent years."

Tanner isn't the only one who is against the timing of a bond issue. Chip Hornberger, former school board member, and his wife Jan had their letter published in last week's Signal about their concerns. When asked to explain his concerns, Hornberger was happy to express his feelings.

"I think the timing is probably the thing that we were most concerned with," Hornberger said. "Like I've said, I've always supported the school system and I'm all for a good quality education. But the timing with the way the economy is right now isn't good. Our taxes are high enough as it is. If you tack on a little bit more, it makes a big difference."

During the past 10 months, the school district's facilities' committee has been learning about the district's buildings and what needs upgraded. At its final meeting Feb. 19, the committee developed a recommendation that it will present at Monday's school board meeting that starts at 7 p.m. in the District Office.

The recommendation includes a $22.5 million bond issue that would be voted on in November. That bond would include a new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, new auditorium, new baseball and softball fields, new practice track and roof/heating and cooling renovations at Baldwin Junior High School.

"I commend the committee for what they have done," Hornberger said. "I served on one of those when they built the last high school. I commend them, but I question some of their findings a little bit."

Some of those questions are about the new BESPC and auditorium. Both Tanner and Hornberger feel the elementary school can be renovated, which would save the district millions of dollars.

"There are some major needs and some minor needs," Hornberger said. "I realized the elementary school is in dire need of some repair, but I think it can be repaired for a lot less than it costs to build a new building."

Tanner feels the same way.

"I don't think we need a new elementary school," Tanner said. "There is no justification, except simply to update it. They have space in that school that can be renovated or brought up to date. It's silly how school districts have to build a new school all of the time."

Of course, BESPC wasn't the only concern of Tanner. He also doesn't understand the need for a new auditorium.

"They have no justification for that, but I want to know why they didn't build a new one or renovate the current one when they built the high school," Tanner said.

Hornberger knows the auditorium proponents are still wanting a new facility after some say it was promised in the early 1990s. However, he would still like to see the community get together and build a community-wide facility.

"I know part of that stems from when the high school was built, the auditorium was supposed to be included in that," Hornberger said. "I think that the auditorium is a good idea, but I've changed my thinking to maybe a community auditorium would be better than the school district paying the whole bill.

"I would much rather see it as a joint effort between the district, Baker and the city," Hornberger said. "That would be an ideal situation, but that may not be the most realistic idea. Everybody in the community would benefit from that."

That proposed bond issue would increase the district's mill levy again, as the district is already paying off its last two bond issues. A $22.5 million bond would cost a household $275 a year on a home with an assessed value of $200,000. That would be around $23 per month.

The bond issue from the high school will be paid off in 2013 and the one from the Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center will be paid off in 2018.

"I think that maybe we should wait until those are closer to being paid off, before having another," Hornberger said.

The idea of another tax increase is not something Tanner can handle.

"That is a lot of money," Tanner said of the $22.5 million bond proposal. "People in Baldwin are paying a remarkable amount of money for school taxes and that would just add to it."

One reason Tanner is against the tax increase is because Kansas doesn't offer tax cuts for senior citizens. Tanner said about 15 states decrease the property tax of its citizens after they reach the age of 65. Kansas isn't one of those states.

"Baldwin is getting to be a place that is getting too expensive to live," Tanner said. "Utility bills are higher than other comparable areas and house value has gone up again. The cost of living in Baldwin is a factor. Some of us like it here, but there is a limit."


Torch 10 years, 3 months ago

I know several people who left in the last 18 months and are living better for less in other cities.

There are people in this town who believe that there is a bottomless pot of money that can be tapped at will.

We're in a recession with the uncertainty of a new President upon us...why in the hell are we even THINKING about more debt?!?!?


NanCrisp 10 years, 3 months ago

"Baldwin is getting to be a place that is getting too expensive to live," Tanner said. "Utility bills are higher than other comparable areas and house value has gone up again. The cost of living in Baldwin is a factor. Some of us like it here, but there is a limit."

A lot of us have reached our limit. Luckily for B.C., the current housing market prevents us from escaping.


Justask 10 years, 3 months ago

Renovating the Primary Center won't fix the access problem. Or solve the security issues. Or more importantly, give children the educational opportunities required by families looking for a place to settle down.

The facilities committee looked at the price of renovating the Primary Center. Yes, it's always cheaper in the short run to gerry rig and shore up crumbling facilities. But what about the costs in the long run? There is no long term benefit in continuing to cobble together a Primary Center that has been consistently ignored for more than 20 years. We need to build a new Early Childhood facility that meets our current and future needs. We can do it today when it seems costly and it's planned for, or we do what Baldwin City usually does, not plan for it, paste it together and make do, and then panic and build something completely inadequate that is outdated when the doors open. (Kind of like the high school.) Let's not have the community look back in five to ten years and question why we didn't just apply the 6 to 9 million dollars in renovation costs to a new school which will today cost $13 million. Not to mention how much more expensive it will cost during our panic in the future.

Let's instead, build a 21st century, state of the art early childhood center that will meet the evolving needs of our children and community for the next 50 years.

One reason people move to Baldwin City is because of the quality of our schools. Your housing values are not going to go up if we fail to envision and build high quality, state of the art facilities. When no one new moves in and young families move out, communities die.


Torch 10 years, 3 months ago

"One reason people move to Baldwin City is because of the quality of our schools. Your housing values are not going to go up if we fail to envision and build high quality, state of the art facilities."

Forgive me but I've lived in many, many places over the years. Not once in all the times I moved did anyone say to me: "Don't move there the school system sucks." Every single time we were told "Oh, the school district is excellent!" Whether it was or wasn't never came into play. Your argument is poor.

Let's NOT build a 21st century state-of-the-art EAC until we can afford it. Why must the school district dictate the direction of our livelihood in this town? Is it because it's the largest employer and manned by native Baldwinites?

Anything you build will NOT service the needs of this community for the next 50 years. If you think that is true then you're living in a dream world. The high school - according to many - is already out-dated and it's barely 10 years old.

This is the same district that is telling you that keeping Marion Springs open for $250k/year is a good thing.

In any case, even if there is enough money now there may not be soon. How many taxpayers are there in Baldwin? 1,000? Exactly how much is enough? How much more of my income do you want to spend on fantasies?


Stacy Napier 10 years, 3 months ago

A school system is not measured by it's buildings. Kansas City MO schools have some brand new buildings, but they still can't imporve the district.

What makes a district is the people. Some of the best schools in Kansas were one room school houses. They did what they were supposed to 'TEACH'.

What is this about crumbling buildings. I have said it before Baker has a building that is 150 years old and they still use it. Did you not take care and repair the buildings you have.

Everyone would love to live in a Hurst Mansion, but is it really necessary? or can you live just fine in a three bedroom 1000 sqft house. The bigger you build the more it cost to maintain it. So how can you say that is cheaper in the long run to build new.

I hope everbody gets out and votes to send a message to the School board that they need to keep what they have and work within a budget. There is no more money...


Justask 10 years, 3 months ago

First of all Torch, predictable response. I enjoy a good debate about the issues and I know the school bond campaign, if it is approved by the school board, is going to make for a heckuva good time this fall. I know I won't (and no one else will either) change your mind about this bond or the school district, ever. Same goes for you notwhatyouthink. Your minds are made up.

I think the current high school exactly proves my point about vision. Who in their right mind would built a high school without a competition gym or auditorium? Well, besides Baldwin? I wasn't here then, so I don't know the ins and outs of who made what decision. But I live here now and I can see how much those poor choices in the past are going to cost us in the future. Wouldn't it be nice if we actually learned something from the mistakes in the past?

As for my "poor" argument regarding checking out the quality of a school district. I was checking out that information long before we had children. There was no way I was moving somewhere without a quality school district, not only for our children if we decided to start a family, but also for resale value. And I did more than just ask my realtor. It never occurred to me not to check out test scores among a myriad of other things we evaluated before we bought our house.

I don't care one way or the other about closing the other two elementary schools. That argument has been going on for 40 years. It's not going to be resolved anytime soon. I certainly do not have the solution. But please note, it does not cost $250,000 to keep Marion Springs open. It costs $300,000 annually to keep both Marion Springs and Vinland open. And if we do close them, I honestly don't know where we would put those students. Perhaps you have current information about where those students would go. If so, and have a credible source of information, please let us know.

In the meantime, I'm just going to lay low and see how this plays out. Except for my response to notwhatyouthink....


Justask 10 years, 3 months ago

As to notwhatyouthink: I live in 1,300 square foot three bedroom house. I do not live in "Hurst Mansion" or even Hearst Castle. (Although I have visited there several times...) I live nowhere near Signal Ridge. But even I know my ten year old house is more energy efficient than a building more than 50 years old. In energy costs alone, new buildings are better built and cheaper to run. Not to mention building usage and upkeep. Yeah, I'm afraid any builder will tell you it's easier in the long run to build new than maintain a building that has been consistently ignored for 20 years.

It's just going to get harder and harder to keep an elementary school in that location. Parking is a mess and it's about to get much worse this fall when Baker opens their new dorm on 7th street. The current lot that PC visitors use is owned by Baker. When that dorm opens, that lot will be full. The lot behind the PC is full too. Access to that building is about to get a lot tougher, not to mention the safety issues. I guess we could always pave the rest of the playground for parking, but wouldn't it be nice to have a school with adequate space for play areas and parking. One that didn't involve taking your life into your own hands every time you turn the correct way down 7th Street only to find your way blocked by someone who can't read a Do Not Enter sign?


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