It’s time to remove the cobwebs from the local blog. Some of you may be wondering where I’ve been. Since Norris is gone, I haven’t really been overly concerned about the local scene. I’ve been devoting my time to other political pursuits. No, I’ve never heard anything more from ole’ Amorous Vic Hurlbert either. The big elections are only a year away, so I’m sure we’ll see Vic trying to play “kingmaker” soon.
It’s that time again, November is upon us and that means it’s special election time in Clay County. As usual, a Special Election in an off year means nothing really exciting to vote on, but rest assured, one or more of your friendly taxing entities is sure to try and ask for your money. Not to be let down we have a retail sales tax for the Kansas City Zoo, tax levy ceiling increase for Claycomo, a request to sell bonds for Missouri City’s sewer system, a tax levy increase for the Liberty School District, and a request for a road district extension in Kearney.
Click here to see the November 8th Special Election Ballot for those living in Clay County.
I’m only going to focus on the two I will be voting on; the zoo sales tax and the Liberty Schools levy increase.
The Kansas City Zoo wants to increase our sales taxes so they can turn the zoo into a “regional zoo.” The zoo wanted me to pass along that after you vote for their sales tax there will be free s’mores available at the zoo, and an acoustic guitarist on hand to lead you in a version of “Kumbayah.” Yeah, no thanks! Please, please, please get out and vote this thing down. This is one of those goofy ballot initiatives that always seem to stand some strange possibility of passing. I’m not sure what causes it. It could be that a tax increase is like a mating call for liberals, whatever the case, I’m sure they will be at the polls, so I hope you will be, too.
The other ballot initiative is not so easy. I will be supporting this levy increase, although it was not an easy decision. I want to relate to you my perspective and why. As a taxpayer of Liberty School District, an educator, and a fiscal conservative I’m really kind of torn here.
Liberty School District wants to increase our taxes so they can build elementary school #11, phase III construction at Liberty North High School, more classroom space at Liberty High School, and an all-purpose district stadium at Liberty High School.
There is a lot of good in this initiative for the kids and patrons of the Liberty School District. Growth over the past decade has led to a large influx of new students and the buildings are bulging at the seams. I’m not a huge fan of modular units as classrooms, but not because they deliver some form of emotional scar to the students that are inside of them for class, but because they are expensive to maintain and operate, and “temporary” modular classrooms have this strange tendency of becoming permanent over time. Failure to pass this levy will result in the increase of trailers within the district, we could see 40 units by 2016 if nothing is done in the coming years.
Existing capacity in the elementary and secondary levels will be exceeded by 2017-2018. I stand corrected. Existing capacity is already exceeded, even the new additions that this levy will provide will be exceeded by 2017, that’s just the year that a new round of building with no-tax increase bonds would be needed.
The additions to the high schools will create the ability to turn the Liberty School district into a K-5, 6-8, 9-12 system. I have experience as a middle school educator, I can’t stand the current feeder system we have in Liberty. Junior highs ought to be eliminated forever from the psyche of public education. In my opinion they do not benefit kids. Middle school students should be in a true middle school, grades 6-8.
The part of this thing that really gets me is the new $4.2 million dollar all-purpose district stadium. The stadium is 10% of the total increase, and it’s what really had me hung up on voting for this thing. It’s not because the district doesn’t have a compelling reason for needing it, it’s really because I’m about sick and tired of school sports, especially football. America reminds me of Rome sometimes when it comes to our sports. The average American couldn’t begin to explain to you what’s going on economically in this country, at least they couldn’t explain the why, but I guarantee you they could tell you all about football. I get the argument that sports are good for kids, and somewhat agree with the argument that sports ‘can’ benefit the academic environment. The problem I often have with it is that some people seem to think that no child would ever succeed academically if they didn’t have a sport to play.
Liberty needs a new stadium because their ability to use the stadium at William Jewell has run it’s course. Jewell is moving to a new conference which will cause them to need their field for soccer on Friday nights. This will cause some high school games to be played on Thursday nights. Football causes enough interruptions to the high school classroom, a football game on Thursday nights is not a good thing.
Because the levy causes a shift in the ninth graders coming to the high school, a new field will provide a space for many of the activities that would take place. The Liberty High School track also needs replaced, with the new field comes a more cost effective way of replacing this.
The thing that I don’t get about the stadium is this. Did you not see this coming at some point years ago? I realize that using the field at Jewell was convenient and worked for many years, but you really never thought that this might create a problem at some point?
What about cost to the taxpayer? If passed, someone with $200,000 in assessed property will pay an additional $163.00 in property taxes for the year, this is only $13.50 more per month. At the end of the day, not a great amount when you look at what is being gained from the increase. Endorsements so far include the Liberty Tribune, Northland Neighborhoods, and the Liberty Chamber of Commerce. Of course, the Tribune endorsement is meaningless to me, the paper reminds me of the falling Star. The other two do matter.
I read in an article on the Liberty Tribune website that there was an alternative proposal supported by the three dissenting board members on this levy; Carlin Walker, Mattie Ransom, and Kim-Marie Graham. Now before you get all excited that there was some opposition, let me explain what the opposition supported. They wanted to keep the football stadium, no on the elementary school. Gee….thanks…. But, this does lead me to believe we genuinely have a capacity problem and need to do something about it.
The other reason for supporting this is that people need to understand that schools have to be paid for at the local level, and I would much rather see us funding things here in Clay County and the Liberty School District than seeking out funding from other higher level sources. You may be thinking that doesn’t make sense, we’re talking about a facilities bond. Yeah, well, you may have missed Obama’s comments recently, but he was talking about funding for building schools. Not sure how serious he was, but I’m not okay with that. I just hope that the Liberty School Board is smart enough to see what might happen with federal funding in the next couple of years. If we get a Republican President, and it’s anything but the liberal Mitt Romney, Federal funding for schools may be in trouble. Many of the Republican candidates are talking about gutting the Department of Education, which I’m all for, but it’s going to cause a large shock to local school boards.