Bond issue opponents state case
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."