by PJ Rooks
After several months of research and planning, the Platte County R-3 school board will be asking for voter input this April on a 60-cent tax levy increase question.
With one board member absent, the board unanimously approved a resolution for a special election on the question of a tax levy which would be used largely to finance construction of a new elementary school on its Platte City campus at a maximum estimated cost of $21 million.
“This has been a long journey, a long process, and the board and the community is aware that we have vetted this through receiving input from the community in a variety of mediums,” said Superintendent Mike Reik during the board meeting Thursday evening.
“We have done a financial review, we have done robust demographic studies and we know what our enrollment projections are. We’re at that time where we’ve pulled everything together, and it’s time to take it to our voters, if you will.”
After the approval from the board, Reik said he would submit the ballot language to the board of elections to be included in the general municipal election on April 3.
The ballot will ask voters for authorization to “fully eliminate the reduction in the operating tax levy (Proposition C rollback) for school purposes resulting from sales tax revenues” as well as to “increase the operating tax levy ceiling of the district to $4.0688 per $100 of assessed valuation,” which will, in effect, increase the district’s operating levy by 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation from its current rate of $3.46 per $100.
Reik said that he does not anticipate an increase in the tax levy in August for the 2012-13 school year.
The special election question is a pivotal one, he said, which will “provide direction to the district on how the public wishes to address enrollment growth” and, if approved, will advance the district’s tax levy to just below the median for Kansas City area school districts.
Reik said that the project is intended to reflect findings of a recent survey which indicated public support for keeping class sizes low, addressing enrollment growth and maintaining district buildings. The survey showed that for stakeholders not supportive of the project, the most frequently cited reason was concern with current economic uncertainty.
“Ironically,” said Reik, “the current state of the economy will provide the most competitive bidding environment and best interest rates possible which lowers the amount of needed taxation.”
One of the goals for the proposed 65,000 square foot elementary school, according to a public information flyer distributed by the district, is to completely replace Rising Star Elementary, which is over 60 years old and in need of $400,000 in repairs.
During the board meeting, Keegan Jackson and Michelle Meyer of Hollis + Miller Architects presented a virtual tour of the building as proposed. The full tour is accessible from the district’s web site through the following link: http://22.214.171.124/attachments/990a3102-0fe9-411d-ba04-bdbc8e73a28b.pdf or by navigating through the site’s electronic school board pages to the Jan. 19 meeting (*full instructions below).
Lead architect for the project, Michelle Meyer, said the two-story plan of the building will provide the most cost-efficient solution to the challenges presented by the land. Features of the school will include two classroom wings, an upper and a lower, which can be locked off to leave public areas such as the gym, cafeteria and media center available for use after hours.
The plan also includes a stage between the gym and lunchroom that can be closed off by a walls or opened for flexible use. Three activity centers are included in each classroom wing for special projects such as science activities, mentoring and one-on-one reading, Meyer said, and one of the activity centers also has access to the outdoors.
“It’s a unique plan because not only are those breakout spaces available,” said Meyer, “but they’re also sized the same size as a classroom. In the future if you had a bubble in enrollment, that lets you accommodate that.”
A two-story media center that can be viewed from the upper level of the building is designed both to bring in natural daylight and to try to get away from the feeling of being on a basement level, Meyer said.
“We want to make this building, even though it’s two stories, feel very connected between the two,” said Meyer.
Lockers in the hallway, instead of cubbies in the classrooms, and recessed lighting on dimmer switches are also intended to add flexibility for classrooms, Meyer said.
If approved by voters, the levy will also be used to finance the construction of seven to nine additional classrooms and a multipurpose area at Pathfinder Elementary as well as expansions at the high school that will free up classroom spaces indoors and, outdoors, will add parking and bus areas and replace the tennis courts. The levy will also be used in maintenance, security and technology improvements across the district as a whole.
In other district news, after receiving proposals from six health brokerage service providers, board members approved assistant superintendent Rob Gardner’s recommendation to extend services with the district’s current provider, Miller Donnelli, until Oct. 1, 2012. In a January 10 memo to board members, Gardner wrote, “In the past, the district has not provided a clear vision/expectation of any additional services and wanted to extend our partnership several months in order for the current provider to make any necessary adjustments to their current services.”
* The virtual tour of the proposed elementary school can also be accessed as follows:
-From the district’s home page, www.plattecountyschooldistrict.com, hover over “District” then scroll down and click on “School Board.”
-Here, from the Quick Links menu on the left side of the screen, click on “Electronic School Board.”
-From the calendar on the top right, find Jan. 19 (highlighted in yellow) then scroll down the agenda and click on item 7.1 “Update on Building Projects from Hollis and Miller Architects.”
-From here, find “File Attachment” in the list on the left and click on text that reads: 1022 Elem Design Review BOE 20120119.pdf. The file may load slowly.