Editor's note: This story originally ran in the March 4 edition of the Democrat, prior to the postponement of the April 7 municipal election. With the election now set to take place June 2, the Democrat is re-running articles providing information about ballot measures that voters will decide on when they go to the polls next week.
Voters will find a $10.75 million general obligation bond issue for the Moniteau County R-1 School District on the ballot for the upcoming June 2 election.
Titled "Proposition 2020 — Vision for the Future," the funding granted pending approval of the bond issue will be directed toward a number of improvements across the district. These include upgrades to building security; technology infrastructure upgrades; energy conservation via upgrades to HVAC and lighting; parking lot and sidewalk expansions, including improved pick up and drop off zones; athletic improvements, including a resurfaced track, repairs to the high school gym's bleachers and the installation of a wooden gym floor in the elementary school; and more than 20 new instructional spaces between the elementary and middle schools.
The proposition is being advertised as a "no tax increase general obligation bond issue" — no additional tax will be levied to pay for these projects, though the district's existing $1.1355 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation debt service levy will be extended by 11 years. A general obligation bond issue is a legal means a Missouri school district may use to borrow money from the private sector with voter approval. Bonds are sold at $5,000 increments to individual and institutional investors by the district's municipal bond underwriter, the interest of which is exempt from federal and state income taxes to keep interest rates lower.
California Superintendent Dwight Sanders said the district currently has about $4.5 million of debt on the books from past bond issues, and the proposition voters will find on the June ballot is a larger project than most the district has taken on in the past.
Sanders said the district is also looking to partner that with a guaranteed performance contract of about $1.5 million. A guaranteed performance contract would see the district partnering with an energy services company, who will evaluate the district's total spending on electricity and gas and determine its efficiency, granting potential energy conservation projects after an audit of district facilities.
Going this route would allow the district to save on utilities to recoup the cost of that contract plus interest, which would go toward the portions of the bond issue directed at energy conservation — HVAC upgrades, a lighting retrofit in the California Performing Arts Center, and other new HVAC equipment at the high school.
"I don't want people to think that we're trying to mislead them," Sanders said. "They are (already) paying a tax that pays for maintaining our facilities."
Sanders said with the size of the district's facilities, it's important to maintain them in good condition.
"You can either continue to keep the debt service levy on the books and be able to keep your facilities in good operating order and maybe pay less through that process, or wait until things are falling apart and then come back and try to add a tax (for) our taxpayers," Sanders said. "For us, we recognize that maintenance has to be ongoing in order to provide the kind of learning environment that we think our students need."
Sanders said the district has hosted informational meetings to help inform voters about the details of the proposition, with the most recent taking place yesterday evening. He said these meetings have resulted in good questions and feedback, and he's hopeful there will be more participation at other upcoming community presentations as the April election approaches.
"For the most part, we've seen positive support for (the proposition)," Sanders said. "There have been some questions, and I'd expect that — they're wanting clarification on things. I appreciate that, because it helps us guide our presentations toward what people are asking about."
Sanders said there's also a steering committee composed of about 40 members working to disseminate information to district voters.
"I think six weeks from now, when we're actually at the election, folks won't say 'I didn't know anything about it,'" Sanders said. "That is our hope, for sure. I can't thank the steering committee enough for all that they're doing, because we're getting a huge amount of help from them."
As for the short answer as to why voters should vote "yes" on June 2, Sanders said he'd tell voters it's vitally important for the district to maintain its facilities and has a plan to do so. He said this particular plan would accomplish that for decades to come.
"It's time to bring us (into) the 21st century, and it's important that we do that now," Sanders said.
Individuals who wish to get more information about the proposed bond issue may contact Sanders at 573-796-2145.