By John Sharp
Voters in the Grandview C-4 School District will decide April 6 on whether to approve the first property tax increase requested by the district in 17 years and a no tax increase bond proposal to finance renovations and improvements at all district schools.
Question 1 is the proposal to raise the district’s property tax rate by 60 cents from $4.3057 to $4.9057 per $100 of assessed valuation to fund competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain quality teachers and staff and to cover increases in operating expenses since the last increase was approved in 2004. It requires a simple majority for approval.
Question 2 is the proposal to approve the $45 million bond issue. No tax increase will be required since these bonds will replace earlier bonds that already have been paid off. This will require a 57.2 percent majority for approval.
The Grandview Board of Education voted unanimously to seek voter approval of both measures.
“We believe that these two ballot questions will help to push the school district to positive new heights,” said Sandy Kessinger, chair of Funding Our Schools Future campaign.
Kessinger explained her committee is supporting both ballot measures because its members don’t want the district to be forced to choose between funding critically needed capital improvement projects at district schools and being able to hire and retain the best possible teachers and staff.
The district’s website notes that about 46 percent of its funding for general operations comes from local property taxes, and about 80 percent of its operating funds are spent on salaries and benefits for teachers and staff. The remaining 20 percent is spent on goods and services which continue to rise in cost.
Dr. Kenny Rodrequez, Grandview school superintendent, noted in an interview that Missouri ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in aid to public education and funding for pupil transportation is extremely inadequate. He said this forces school districts to rely more on funding from local property taxes to assure their students get a first class education than districts have to in many other states.
While Rodrequez said Grandview’s property tax rate has been near the middle of the pack for area districts for some time, he emphasized it doesn’t generate nearly as much revenue per pupil as more affluent districts that have much more commercial and industrial development and higher residential values.
He said this has made it difficult to maintain competitive salaries and benefits so the district can successfully recruit the brightest and best teachers, particularly when there is both a national and local shortage of teachers.
“We don’t want to be a training facility for other districts. We need to keep great teachers and great staff by showing our employees they’re valuable to us,” he said.
Rodrequez noted that one of the main reasons many families move into certain communities and neighborhoods and stay there is because of the quality of their schools which also protects residential property values.
“Good schools make good neighborhoods,” Rodrequez said.
Turning to the proposed bond issue, the superintendent stressed that this is a “perfect time” to sell bonds since current interest rates are so low.
He noted that some of the improvements to the district’s schools (most built in the 1950s and 1960s) that will be funded by the bond issue such as roof repairs and replacement, HVAC upgrades and window replacement will save significant amounts of energy and lower operating costs, while avoiding costly repairs to aging equipment and facilities.
Major projects to be funded by the bond issue include adding an additional gym and fine arts area to the Martin City K-8 School which serves both elementary and middle school students; completing the upgrades of athletic facilities at Grandview High School by renovating the visitor side of Bulldog Stadium and the field house, resurfacing the track and remodeling the weight room; and installing new playgrounds that are suitable for children of all physical abilities that are accessible after hours and on weekends at the district’s elementary schools.
To improve safety and security, new camera systems and card key entry systems will be installed at all schools.
Other improvements will include remodeling the high school cafeteria and enhancing the school’s industrial technology area, renovating high school and middle school locker rooms, installing new windows at Grandview Middle School and Meadowmere Elementary School, and making upgrades as needed to classrooms, fine arts areas, gyms and restrooms.
“We want students to be proud of their schools,” Rodrequez said.
He said if the bond issue passes some work will be started this summer, primarily to complete improvements funded by previously approved bonds, but it will take at least five years to complete all the work.
The Grandview School District covers most of the city of Grandview and a significant portion of southwest Kansas City including the Martin City area.
Passage of the levy and bond proposals has been endorsed by the Grandview Chamber of Commerce, South Kansas City Alliance, South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Southland Progress. There is no organized opposition to the proposals.