Board requests school crossing guards
DeSoto school board members said Monday the city should provide crossing guards for a future crosswalk near Lexington Trails Middle School.
Although it took a firm stand on the crosswalk issue, the board did find common ground with the city council on another matter. At their Monday meeting, school board members agreed the board should defer to the city council on the Mr. Goodcents' tax abatement request.
The school board's determination that the city act on the crossing guard issue was sparked by DeSoto City Council member John Taylor's statement at the Sept. 7 city council meeting that it was the district's responsibility to hire and train crossing guards.
Superintendent Marilyn Layman said the statement seemed to contradict an understanding reached by a joint city-district issues committee.
Layman and district transportation director Jack Deyoe said the city has agreed to install a crosswalk on Penner Avenue south of Lexington Trails Middle School.
The Kansas State School Board Association has advised the district not to use district employees or parent volunteers as crossing guards. The Kansas Attorney General's office has issued an opinion stating school employees or volunteers have no authority to regulate traffic on city streets, he said.
The use of district employees or parent volunteers would put the district in legal liability, Deyoe said. The city would not face that risk because its employees have the authority to regulate traffic on city streets, Deyoe said.
Johnson County's larger cities hire and train crossing guards through their police department, Deyoe said. The Spring Hill Police Department hired one crossing guard at $21 a day, and the city of Bonner Springs employs three crossing guards.
The city could hire parent volunteers who have completed a state-offered training program at a minimal rate, Deyoe said.
DeSoto City Council member Linda Zindler, who serves on the joint issue committee with city council member Brad Seaman, said she is willing to listen to the district's suggestions. City representatives are waiting for the district to present estimates of how much it would cost the city to hire and train crossing guards.
Layman said that was her understanding of the issue, too, until she read Taylor's comment in the city council minutes. The district needs to make the city council understand the meaning of the attorney general's opinion, she said.
Board member Curtis Allenbrand agreed and said the district hasn't been aggressive enough in making its case.
"What we have to do is put pressure on the city council to do their job," Allenbrand said. "Did the city of Shawnee take care of that when we asked them to? So should the city of DeSoto."
Other members said Allenbrand's suggestion might be premature. Board member William Waye noted that the district hasn't formally asked the city to provide crossing guards.
It was decided Layman would ask to be on an upcoming city council agenda to explain the district's position.
It might be too late for Layman to get on this week's agenda, but the district does have an interest on one item that will be discussed. The city council is scheduled to take action on Mr. Goodcents' tax abatement request.
Mr. Goodcents is requesting a 10-year abatement on a research and development facility it proposes to build in DeSoto's K-10 Commercial Park. The abatement would start at 100 percent and decline 5 percent annually.
Earlier this month, the consensus was that the board would urge the city council to stay within its stated policy of restricting abatements to 50 percent. However, that consensus was reached when figures showed the district's benefits over the 10-year abatement period would be less than its costs.
City financial advisor Marty Nohe has since discovered Mr. Goodcents provided the wrong tax code for the state-required cost-benefit analysis. When he plugged in the correct code and made two other adjustments, the district had a positive cost-benefit ratio.
With that news, the board decided the city council should use its best judgment concerning the Mr. Goodcents' abatement.
"If the city council feels there extraordinary circumstances, we should support it," Allenbrand said.