District’s work just starting for bond issue
Last week, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education wrapped up discussion that started with the seating of new board members last July with the unanimous approval of a $105.7 million bond issue.
It is an impressive number and surely one that caused the blood pressure of many local taxpayers to rise. But viewed in context of the district's history, it appears part of an inflationary progression. In 1992, a $14.7 million bond issue was approved. That is a quaint sum by today's standards but it was only approved after the district was unsuccessful in three previous referendums. The first big, multi-project bond issue was approved in 1997 with a $37 million package. Two years later, voters passed a $42.5 million package and went back to the polls to approve a $76.5 million bond issue in November 2002. On two of those occasions, the district saw a first, more-expensive proposal fail.
De Soto taxpayers, although not necessarily students or parents, got what they wanted with the decision not to build a third high school in this bond issue. But the decision to expand the two high schools came with a cost. The price tag to expand De Soto High School for a capacity of 1,000 students is $18.15 million, while another $10.5 million will be needed to expand Mill Valley to accommodate 1,200 students.
The millions proposed for De Soto High School is part of what district planning and operations director Jack Deyoe told those at the Feb. 22 joint De Soto City Council and Planning Commission meeting on the west-side land use plan update was a bond issue more heavily geared to meet the needs of the district's west side and De Soto than those passed in 1999 and 2002. One of the bond issue's planned elementary schools would be built to accommodate students living in areas being studied by the city on its southern and western fringe.
For the most part, it appears the board crafted a bond issue foremost to meet the challenge of growth in De Soto, Shawnee and Lenexa and with an eye toward athletics more than the arts. Some of the more wishful items identified by the facilities needs committee, such as money set aside to partner with other jurisdictions for combined projects, were culled. The only items that detractors could characterize as an extravagance are the added gymnasiums and weight rooms for the two high schools.
Those looking for welcome news in the bond issue proposal can note it is projected to take the district out to 2012 or 2014, or six to eight years compared to the four-year life on the bond issue approved in November 2002.
Having advanced the bond issue, the board must continue to build a case for it. Look for its members to be challenged on the need for the gymnasiums and weight rooms and the nod to athletics over the arts. It is on those issues that the bond issue's fate could ride.