Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2008

Questions answered regarding bond issue

October 23, 2008

It’s hard to go anywhere in Baldwin City without being reminded of the Nov. 4 election, mostly because of politicians’ signs.

However, that day is also important for the Baldwin School District. Its $22.9 million bond issue is also on the ballot in 12 days. With that looming and many questions being asked about the bond, Supt. Paul Dorathy wanted to clear up a few issues and answer patrons’ questions.

The main question being asked is why the district is doing this now with the economy in its current state.

“There is never a good time to propose raising taxes, but currently interest rates for municipal bonds are low,” Dorathy said. “We need to remember as those rates increase, so does the burden on our taxpayers.”

While addressing the issue of the economy, Dorathy said the construction of new facilities will bring money into Baldwin City. He found research studies done by Rutgers University and West Virginia University that confirmed the impact of construction in a city.

“The construction of the new buildings and facilities would bring considerable economic impact to Baldwin City during that construction phase,” Dorathy said. “About 5 percent of your actual construction costs come back into the community. Then the general practice is that money turns over seven times within the community.

“They would be spending money in town for gas, food and lodging,” he said. “That impact multiplies seven times and I’ve read a couple of recent research studies that say that.”

The largest facility that would be constructed is the new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center. It’s also the largest chunk of the cost as it is projected to cost more than $14 million.

Many questions have surrounded the choice to build a new school, although the current building is 50 years old. Dorathy said the facilities committee considered remodeling the school, but decided against that for several reasons.

“We found that the existing primary center site is small and lacks the proper land area for additional classrooms, off-street parking and safer drop-off and pick-up areas,” he said. “Plus, a remodel would cost approximately 75 percent of a brand new building. The best option for our taxpayers and our students is to build a new facility that will provide the level of education our students deserve.”

Other questions have been asked about BESPC. One of those is why the school district can’t use space on the third floor of the District Office for BESPC classrooms.

“We do have rooms up there, but the problem is they are up three flights of stairs and that makes it difficult for little children to go up and down those stairs,” Dorathy said. “Plus, if we have any child or parent that would need to access that classroom with any sort of handicap, it’s difficult to access that floor because there is no elevator in this building. That’s predominantly why we haven’t used those for classrooms.”

The other large item on the bond issue is the auditorium, which is primarily used by Baldwin High School and Baldwin Junior High School. The $3.7 million performing arts center is proposed to be a 600-seat facility with better lighting, acoustics and more room for the students and staff to operate.

“The current auditorium is nearly 40 years old and is too small for our performing arts curriculum,” Dorathy said. “A performing arts center is an integral part of any school system that teaches proper decorum at more formal functions and events, not just assemblies, but also lectures, elections, performances, presentations, ceremonies and graduations. We are preparing students for activities both during and beyond high school and must provide appropriate facilities to support our initiative.”

The school board also included a $2.7 million chunk of the bond issue to go toward new baseball and softball fields and a practice track facility. Dorathy said many people have asked why those are needed, since Baker University’s Liston Stadium is used for track practice.

“Personal safety was a key factor in the determination to build a new track on district property,” Dorathy said. “The stadium becomes congested, as it is also used by Baker’s track, football, baseball, softball and soccer athletes. Our junior high and high school student athletes often share the stadium with Baker athletes, creating a dangerous environment, due to the wide range of ages and skill levels.

“We made a commitment several years ago to offer both baseball and softball programs to our high school students, and now we have an obligation to provide safe and adequate facilities for these athletes,” he said. “Our current fields are not regulation size, disqualifying our school from hosting postseason play. The lack of proper drainage creates soggy conditions after rains, sometimes forcing our athletes to miss several days of practice or competitions.”

The other two items on the bond issue are BJHS renovations (includes new roof and HVAC system for $1.2 million) and technology upgrades for $500,000.

The patrons campaigning for the bond issue have created a Web site promoting it. The link is www.votebest.org. For more information on the bond issue, contact Dorathy at 594-2721 or visit www.usd348.com.

“I hoped this would kind of clear up some questions people have asked,” Dorathy said. “These are some commonly asked questions. I just thought that we should try and answer some of those for them.”

Comments

oldschool 5 years, 10 months ago

It would truly be awesome to have all of these things that the bond issue promises. BUT - let's do it right. Let's have some forsight.

Where are the 600 people plus the performers going to park when they use the new performing arts center? The BHS/BJHS parking lot is crowded for normal events like a basketball game, not to mention multiple events on the same night.

Let's get some city streets with sidewalks out to the new elementary complex and ballfields so there are safer ways for kids to walk or ride bikes to and from the area.

Finally, let's have somone accountable at the District for the routine maintenance on buildings and grounds so that we can stop putting out "fires" that cost millions of dollars. Seriously, I've lived here forever and the BJHS roof and heating and air have never been right.

Let's get it right this time.

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Bloggerboo 5 years, 10 months ago

Hard to tell if you are for or against the bond issue, oldschool, by these comments. But, since you want things done right, I have to assume you realize completely that there is no way to do things right without the means to do them. That takes money.

Oh, and by the way, there are folks accountable within the District: the Board members. If you don't like the plans they have come up with over the last 12-18 months of working on this, then vote them out next time you have a say in it. But, don't deny kids opportunities just because of past mistakes by other board members who are no longer even on the board, or past administrators who are not here any longer.

So, I'll put you down as a Yes vote! Thanks, Oldschool.

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Torch 5 years, 10 months ago

Vote no.

Sorry. Wrong time to do this. Don't mortgage your kids' future for the sake of the egos of the controlling USD Mafia.

There is no need for a 600 seat auditorium. There is no need for new sports facilities. Note I said NEED.

To modify your own words - 'Don't deny kids future opportunities just because of current mistakes. Teach them to be prudent in difficult economic times and instead of demanding it now, be patient and get creative with what you have.'

That would be the best lesson...not how nifty the new Cooper Performance Center is.

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bc 5 years, 10 months ago

"Don't deny kids future opportunities just because of current mistakes. Teach them to be prudent in difficult economic times and instead of demanding it now, be patient and get creative with what you have."

Go talk to the teachers, technology staff, administration. They HAVE been patient, they HAVE been creative with what they have. Ask the administrators how many extra duties they've taken on. Go ask teachers who spend their own money on items for their classrooms.

Talk to those students who are interested in performing arts. The students who deal with poor lighting, inadequate stage, unsafe electrical wiring and still perform. The current auditorium is used by many more groups/classes than Mr. Cooper which shows how little you know about the need Torch (notice I said NEED). Last I checked, band performances were usually held in the Gym so I don't know if Mr. Cooper even uses the auditorium now due to space issues. Fact is, attend a band/vocal performance at some other school in our area. You'll most likely find it in an auditorium, not a basketball facility.

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Torch 5 years, 9 months ago

"Talk to those students who are interested in performing arts."

"Fact is, attend a band/vocal performance at some other school in our area. You'll most likely find it in an auditorium, not a basketball facility."

So what? Last I checked it's not about where they perform but the practice and discipline it takes to become proficient that is important. Just as the current sports facilities have met our needs so do our current 'performing arts' facilities. In years past we've used Baker's auditorium. Not sure why that can't be arranged at a much lower cost.

How about this? Instead of having all the students sit in the high school auditorium watching their peers perform keep them in the hallway waiting their turn. This would free up dozens of seats for relatives. Every time I've been to a Cooper event the other kids take up half the facility.

This is what I mean by getting creative and using what you have during a tough time.

If my parents would come to watch me perform - whether it was sports, arts, or debate - I wouldn't care where it was because who is there is way more important than where I am.

THAT would be a GREAT message to give to the children...instead of insisting that they have the finest facilities money can't afford - let's talk to them about who is watching them.

The children are not asking for improvements. The faculty is. To me that's all about ego and another reason to postpone this bond until economic times are more stable. Voting yes to this bond as it stands right now is foolish. No matter how you slice it.

There are parts of it I do support, but not as a whole. Because 'line item veto' is not available then it must be turned down. We're a guppy trying to swallow a whale with this one.

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Bloggerboo 5 years, 9 months ago

Torchy, well, you are coming around a bit, huh? You make it clear you don't think we need a new auditorium or athletic facilities. So what parts do you support?

You do realize that just voting no doesn't solve the district's or the communities financial problems? In fact, it just shifts the burden and might make things worse. Please address the following issue:

If we don't pass the bond, the district will have to repair the junior high and the primary center, no matter what, at a cost of almost 75% of the current bond. Where will they get that money? It will come from the capital outlay, if there is even enough, and that will mean many, many other things will be pushed back. Why wouldn't we take the state's help, (they'll pay 27%) and build something new for the same price? Not to mention the added benefits of the safe rooms basically coming online free of charge, but only if the bond passes. Really, Torch, it doesn't take a financial genius to figure out the OBVIOUS benefits to us here.

This is a much cheaper way for us to go rather than waiting another year or two. Everything goes up, and we get less if we do that. How does that make sense? You'd rather be $30 a month or more poorer next year than $15 poorer this year?

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Bloggerboo 5 years, 9 months ago

Oh, looky. The fed has cut the interest again. The cost of this bond to the taxpayers just keeps going lower and lower. And we are getting more and more for our small investment!

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beevo 5 years, 9 months ago

A $22.9 million bond issue is not a small investment! Especially for a small school district when the bond money is added to outstanding school bond debts. What would the total cost of all the school bonds, per $100,000.00 of property valuation? This would be what we really would be paying. .

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Bloggerboo 5 years, 9 months ago

Small district? We are currently the 244th largest district out of 309 in the state of Kansas (http://cpfs.ksde.org/cpfs/custom_rpts5.aspx?display_wait=1). Only 309-244=65 districts are larger than us. I'm not saying we are big, but by no means are we small.

And $22.9 million IS a small investment when you look at what we are getting for that money. The value is amazing. It is ok to disagree with me on whether or not you want to pay a little more in taxes, but don't twist facts around to serve your purpose.

And from now on, let's just call it a $17 million dollar bond, BECAUSE THE STATE PAYS THE REMAINDER! Not us taxpayers.

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bcsandyc 5 years, 9 months ago

Vote no for the bond. I did. The Lumberyard Arts Center, when it is completed will be the perfect venue for Arts performances. This way the money you save on taxes can be donated to getting this desperately-needed project completed.

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beevo 5 years, 9 months ago

We are talking about Kansas. Regardless of what you think Baldwin is a small school district! The district enrollment is about 1,275. There are about 68 Kansas school districts larger than Baldwin; many much larger. Lawrence has about 10,100 students & other districts still larger. For example, Wichita has 45,300 students. In a well populated state like California being ranked 244 out of 309 school districts would be impressive, but not in Kansas.

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Bloggerboo 5 years, 9 months ago

Wow, am I disappointed in you, Sandy. You would put one community plan over another? Over children? Over education? Fine. Let's do that. Get that Arts Center up and running and we'll just let the children continue to go to school with the rain dripping on them and the brown recluses hiding in their cubby holes. Brilliant plan. If there was ever anything this city didn't need, it is a Lumberyard Arts Center, especially after reading how greedy and self-centered its proponents are.

Oh, and how exactly does voting no on the bond issue and donating to the LAC get junior high kids off the Baker track, where they co-mingle with college-age kids? How does it help with desperately needed technology upgrades in our school district? How does it provide a decent-sized auditorium for school plays, music peformances, guest appearances, large lectures and such to go on?

Your single-mindedness, self-serving approach to solving community problems is appalling. And to think I once applauded your efforts. Never again.

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Cityboy 5 years, 9 months ago

Okay Bloggerboo... If the experts are saying it would be a detriment to our economy to raise taxes, both presidential candidates are saying it would hurt the economy to raise taxes, what makes you a financial expert to tell me it is okay to raise taxes in Baldwin City?
We are in the worst economy since the mid-1920's and you are saying spend, spend, well I say no. And as far as the 75% figure to repair our existing facilities, I don't believe it. If you want something bad enough you can justify it. I think that is what is going on in Baldwin right now. We have put a square peg into a round hole. The vote will fail. The administration will take a second look and cut out the pork barrel spending. They will submit a second bond for half the price and it will pass. Poor planning at the start of this project has failed it from the start!
Oh yea, about your brown recluse comment… they are everywhere. Check your closet or basement.

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Bloggerboo 5 years, 9 months ago

Um...I am pretty sure, Cityboy, that Obama wants to raise taxes on "just a few Americans".

I am not a financial expert and never claimed to be. I am just someone who cares about kids, and would be willing to shell out $10 or $20 a month to pay for certain necessities, while those purchases are at their cheapest. See, we get the most bang for our buck now. I suppose you would prefer to pay more money for fewer facilities/items, later, right? I guess that makes you a financial expert.

As far as the 75% goes, call Mr. Dorathy. Get the facts right from the guy who got the estimate from the architects and construction companies. If I am wrong, report back.

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