Get to know the ballot issues: Hickman Mills Bond Issue

Photo: Ruskin High School is one of several Hickman Mills School District facilities built in the 1950s that is in need of improvements. 

South KC Perspective

Hickman Mills Bond Issue

John Sharp is a former city councilman and legislator for south KC

By John Sharp

Hickman Mills School District voters will decide on a $30 million no tax increase bond issue to make interior and exterior improvements to the District’s schools in the August 4 primary election.

The proposal, publicized as a zero tax increase bond issue, was approved unanimously by the Board of Education following a series of public forums to get input from community members, staff and students. 

“Passage of this bond issues is essential to create a secure and comfortable learning environment for our students,” said Board President Cecil Wattree.

Enough of the District’s existing bond indebtedness has been paid off to allow new general obligation bonds to be issued without increasing the District’s debt service levy of $1.10 per $100 of assessed property valuation. 

It will require a four-seventh majority (57.2 percent) to pass.  (I am a co-chair along with former Board President Wakisha Briggs of the Committee for Securing Student Success that is promoting passage of the issue.  There is no organized opposition to the proposal.)

The improvements to be funded by the bond issue were selected from a list of about $108 million in needed improvements put together by the District’s architectural firm of Hollis + Miller.

A top priority of the bond issue is installing secure guided entries in seven schools where major improvements are needed to assure all visitors are checked in before having access to students and staff.  Altogether, the proposal projects investing approximately $5.1 million in such improvements.

The great majority of the balance of the funds generated by the bond issue will be spent on making other interior and exterior improvements to the District’s aging schools or to their outdated and inefficient HVAC systems. 

Most of the District’s schools are over 50 years old, with Burke Academy, Ruskin High School and Truman Elementary all built in the 1950s and Dobbs, Ervin, Ingels and Warford elementary schools built in the 1960s.  

The only recently constructed facility is the Freda Markley Early Childhood Center which opened in 2010.

Some schools have roof systems at least 30 years old, and the proposal projects investing about $5 million for major roof improvements at all schools that are currently in use except for the Early Childhood Center.

At Ruskin High School, much of the HVAC system is even older, and system improvements at the school are expected to cost about $900,000.  Five other schools are scheduled for HVAC improvements slated to cost about $1,875,000 more.  Replacing old HVAC systems with new energy-efficient equipment is projected to save significant amounts in utility bills while also saving energy.

Wattree said these savings in energy costs can be redirected to the classroom.

Long overdue restroom renovations planned for eight schools are expected to cost nearly $3.5 million.   Ceiling improvements and interior painting are each expected to cost about $1 million.

New artificial turf will be installed for the playgrounds that need it at all the District elementary schools at a projected cost of about $2.8 million.  Parking lot and sidewalk improvements at the schools are estimated to cost about $2.6 million, and exterior improvements to enhance the appearance of the schools and the image of the District are projected to cost about $2.5 million.

Ruskin High School is slated for major improvements to its theater, gym and locker rooms at a projected cost of about $3.8 million.

The District projects that the improvements to be financed by the bonds will create about 177 jobs and generate about $13.2 million in workers’ salaries.

For more information, persons may go on the District’s website and click on READ MORE on the rotating image about the bond issue.

District voters last approved a bond issue in April 2016 when a $19 million bond issue was approved with a little over 80 percent of the vote.

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