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Monett, Pierce City school bond issues on April ballot

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monett Elementary School's current entrance, which will be moved if the bond issue going before voters on April 6 passes. [Murray Bishoff, photo]
Voters in Monett and Pierce City will be among those deciding on money matters in the April 6 election.

Last week the Monett R-1 Board of Education finalized plans to place a $4.5 million bond issue before voters for construction and renovation of the Monett Elementary School campus. The initiative is being referred to as "Proposition CUBS," an abbreviation for Citizens United for Better Schools.

"There will be no tax increase as a result of this proposition," said Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann. "The debt service level will remain at 56 cents. We want to do a good, quality project. We understand economic conditions, and we won't ask for more than patrons are already giving us."

The entire project will cost an estimated $7.5 million. Jungmann said the board plans to draw $1 million from a capital reserve and sign into a lease purchase for the balance. The lease purchase on the high school will be paid off in the next few years, freeing up funds that can be used for the elementary school project.

The project, as described at recent board meetings, includes building new classrooms, constructing interlinking hallways to connect several existing buildings, moving the campus office, erecting a storm shelter that will double as a gym, removing the present office building and moving the playground.

"The board feels this is a bad time to ask for more taxes," Jungmann said, "but a good time to go to bid for construction. We want to take advantage of qualified school construction bonds, sold at low or no interest. The bonds can save the district $300,000 to $400,000 in interest over the life of the bond issue.

"The other reason to do the project now," Jungmann said, "is the need for security at the elementary school. This is the perfect opportunity to work on that."

At the January board meeting, Jungmann reported there had been no word yet from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the district's application for grant money to build the storm shelter. The request was working its way through the application pipeline and so far all the feedback has been positive, Jungmann said. He expected to receive a decision in the next few weeks.

"Overall the board is very excited to put this proposition before voters," Jungmann said. "The board has heard nothing but positive feedback from plans put before the community. A campaign steering committee will be formed in the next few weeks."

A four-sevenths majority is needed for passage.

Pierce City issue

The City Council in Pierce City has voted to put three sales tax proposals on the ballot. A 15 percent decrease in sales tax income has forced aldermen to cut city employees to 34 hours a week, after which the water/wastewater operator quit.

The first proposal would add a half-cent sales tax for general operations in addition to the seven-eighths of a cent tax presently collected. At 2009 rates, a half-cent tax would did approximately $38,500 to city coffers per year.

Aldermen are also asking for a quarter-cent sales tax to support the fire department and a quarter-cent tax to support the park. Each tax would generate approximately $19,250 annually.

"We didn't come to the decision easily," said Mayor Carol Hirsch. "This is a last ditch effort. We wouldn't ask if we didn't have to have it."

Hirsch said aldermen considered asking for a property tax increase. They concluded a sales tax would be less intrusive. The park sales tax would largely go toward running the swimming pool, which costs around $14,000 a year to operate. At the present time, aldermen do not plan to open the pool next summer without money to run it. Hirsch said the sales tax could make all the difference for the pool.

A simple majority is needed to pass each of the sales taxes.

Pierce City school issue

The Pierce City R-6 Board of Education has voted to ask voters to approve a $3.9 million bond issue to build a new middle school and a $700,000 addition for the vocational agriculture program. In November, 2009, the proposal won a 51 percent majority, up from 41 percent when first tried in April, 2009.

"There was discussion about not going back to the voters in light of the city's situation," said Superintendent Russ Moreland. "The board felt it was something the district needed to do. Several patrons had encouraged the board to try again."

Passage now would still give the district a chance to secure federal stimulus money for the project and take advantage of favorable construction costs, Moreland said.

A four-sevenths majority is needed to pass the bond.

Seligman issue

Only one city in Barry County is seeking a tax issue. Seligman residents will be asked to pass a quarter-cent sales tax for the park system.

City Clerk Joan Andrews said the city has a small park built beside the new city hall around six years ago. Funds would go toward improving the playground equipment and upgrading the ballfield built on Highway DD where the old school had been located.

A simple majority is needed to pass the sales tax.

Road district taxes

Nine road districts in Lawrence County and one in Barry County will ask voters to renew a supplemental property tax to support road maintenance. Voter approval for the supplemental taxes is required every five years. The levies range from 15 to 21 cents per $100 of assessed property.

Lawrence County road districts sending levies to voters include Common I and II, Freistatt, Miller, Red Oak, Mt. Vernon, Verona, Midway and Mr. Pleasant. Washburn is the only Barry County road district with a tax levy renewal going to voters.

A simple majority is needed for passage.

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