Council approves pool bond question
April 6 referendum scheduled for $2.65 million measure
The De Soto City Council insisted on truth in packaging last Thursday when it approved language for a referendum on a $2.65 million bond that would build a new community swimming pool.
The Council ended four years of discussion with the decision to put the pool bond before voters April 6. The first step toward the decision was made last August when the Council agreed the pool should be built behind the De Soto Com-munity Center.
It subsequently asked the De Soto Parks and Recreation Board to develop the question that would appear on the bond referendum ballot.
The bond would provide money to tear out the existing pool at Miller Park, improve the Community Center parking lot, and build a new pool, locker room and concession stand.
The Council adopted the Park Board's recommended language but insisted on two footnotes. Councilman Emil Urbanek said the city should admit to taxpayers that the average 3.31 mill levy support needed to retire the debt would be exceeded in the bond issue's early years.
"Playing this average game is what the school district always does," he said. "Then when taxpayers get their notices, it's always higher than that."
The 20-year amortization schedule provided by bond advisor Marty Nohe showed the annual mill levy from 4.349 in 2006 to 2.51 in 2025 because of declining interest payments and a larger tax base.
At Urbanek's suggestion, it was agreed to include footnotes on the ballot, legal publication in The Explorer, and bond informational material explaining the mill levy support would vary from the average.
Another footnote would explain the pool would require additional mill levy support for annual operating and maintenance costs, although the actual amount remains unclear. Just how much that would be will depend on the revenue the pool earns through admissions, rentals and concessions and that would be dependent on attendance.
In 2003, the Miller Park pool's operating expenses exceeded revenues by $14,000. City Administrator Greg Johnson called attendance estimates a "crap shoot," a view that was reinforced by the widely divergent numbers he developed.
Johnson's estimates developed from studying attendance at the new pool in Baldwin City and from consultants' projections had the revenue shortfall ranging from as low as $5,000 to as much as $70,000. At the city's current assessed valuation rate, 1 mill of property tax generates $42,000 of revenue for the city.
With the footnotes, the Council unanimously approved the referendum, although Urbanek added the qualifier "with reservations" to his yes vote.
It was agreed the city would place informational material about the bond referendum at City Hall and in the De Soto Library. Among the material will be a list of frequently asked questions, operational costs considered, a thorough breakdown of the debt-retirement schedule, and the projected consequences on future mill levies.
The Council selected the April 6 referendum date over a mail-in ballot because of costs and timeliness. The April 6 date coincides with city council/school board elections elsewhere in Johnson County, but not in De Soto, where such elections are on odd-numbered years.
Johnson said that meant the referendum would cost the city $3,800. A mail-in ballot would cost $5,000 and required certification from the Kansas Secretary of State, which could take 60 days, he said.
Councilwoman Mitra Templin, who was chairwoman of the park board's pool subcommittee before her election to the Council, said she was pleased De Soto residents would finally get a chance to vote on a new pool. Pool advocates could ramp up support in the six weeks before the referendum.
Templin said, her concern was that the extended discussion of a possible location for the new pool might hurt its chances for approval. An indoor/outdoor pool complex at De Soto High School was considered before it was rejected as too expensive to operate and maintain.