Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2006

Board OKs $105.7 million bond issue

February 23, 2006

The De Soto USD 232 Board of Education unanimously agreed Tuesday to place a $105.7 million bond issue before voters in November.

The bond issue would expand De Soto High School, Mill Valley High School and Starside Elementary and would pay for two new elementary schools. The new classrooms would allow the district to meet the needs of projected growth through 2012 or 2014 as enrollment grows from the current 5,200 students to 7,900.

Board members began with a wish list of projects and their costs, ranking each in order of importance. Although they supported all of the projects, board members agreed they had to cut the bond amount to something voters would approve.

Board member Bill Waye said although he supported fully funding an early childhood development center, weight rooms and auxiliary gyms, the board had to consider taxpayers.

"We're in a horribly unfair unique position," he said. "We're in an area that our elected officials choose to deflect business away from and make it profitable to put it outside our district boundaries. Those same people look at our entire footprint as a wonderful residential community, which gives us a tiny tax base to levy and support what we've got to do."

Waye said his estimations showed the board wouldn't be able to provide for the growth with anything less than a $100 million bond. He recommended cutting the district service center warehouse, technology enhancements and an early childhood education center.

Board members eventually agreed on a lower-cost bond that would cut some projects originally intended.

Last year, a facilities focus group suggested the board consider a $164 million bond, which would have included a third high school on Mize Road. The board agreed to eliminate the third high school for the 2006 bond issue and expand the two existing high schools instead.

The board also has the challenge of planning for inflation and rising construction costs with the rebuilding of New Orleans and competition with construction in downtown Kansas City, Mo. After voters approved the 2002 bond, one elementary school had to be cut because of inflation. A new middle school on Mize Road and a new elementary school at 71st and Choteau were built from those funds and is scheduled to be completed in 2007.

The early childhood education center, which would be built adjoining the new elementary school at 71st and Choteau, was cut 25 percent and will be built with $9.45 million.

Board member Larry Meyer said he ranked this item high on his priority list.

"I think we're leaving out a very important population," he said of preschool age children. "I think it's key we put some money in to make sure we're meeting their needs at the very early stages."

District Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said the demand for preschools and kindergarten is high in the district. Next year, the eastern half of the district is moving all preschool programs from Prairie Ridge Elementary School to Countryside Learning Center in De Soto because of lack of space.

The bond issue would expand De Soto High School to 1,000 students using $18.15 million and Mill Valley to 1,250 students using $10.5 million.

District communications director Alvie Cater said De Soto High School's expansion would cost more than Mill Valley's because DHS would need new hallways and a bigger media center.

The proposed bond would also pay for two new elementary schools, one of which would likely be located in De Soto based on growth.

Starside Elementary would be expanded to house additional programs. Currently, English as a Second Language classes at Starside are in the school's discovery centers and separated by partitions.

The bond would also pay for auxiliary gymnasiums and weight rooms at both high schools, land acquisition, technology enhancements and the expansion of Monticello Trails Middle School's band room.

Cater said larger auditoriums were not included in the bond issue because of the high cost involved in construction.

Zoellner said meetings with patrons would be scheduled on both sides of the district at later dates to explain the bond issue.

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