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School bond proponents say funding will enhance town

Sunday, March 6, 2005

(Photo)
Sikeston R-6 Superintenent Steve Borgsmiller explains where the proposed math and science center will be located.
SIKESTON -- The time has come for taking the first step toward improving Sikeston R-6 schools' investment in the community, say supporters of the district's proposed bond issue.

"I think our school and the physical part of the school property have done well over the years. School officials have done a good job maintaining the aging properties, but there comes a time when you've done all you can do and need to improve," said Steve McPheeters, a member of the committee promoting the school improvements.

On April 5 voters in the district will consider passing a $4.53 million bond issue for the construction of a new math and science center.

McPheeters described the situation as "Economic Development 101."

"When people come into your community, they look at schools and they see the kind of support they're getting," McPheeters said.

Dr. Bob Buchanan, former R-6 superintendent, agreed.

"When you have good schools, you have a good community," Buchanan said. "Look at the area around the Middle School. No homes were around the Middle School until it was built. And look at the area around the Kindergarten Center -- the same thing."

Buchanan also noted the area of Plantation Acres located behind Lowes Home Improvement had not one home on its lot until it was annexed into the Sikeston R-6 School District.

"A good school is critical in maintaining economic activity in the community," Buchanan said.

McPheeters said the bond issue, which is also known as "Phase I," is a modest proposal that addresses the real and urgent needs the district has now.

The math and science center proposal consists of 33,000-plus square feet and includes 24 new classrooms, a biology lab and a chemistry lab. In addition the building will be used as a ninth grade center.

If passed, the math and science departments would be under one building and the equipment from those labs would be moved to the new building. Freshmen will take all of their core classes -- math, science, social studies and communication arts -- at this center and will already be on campus for their extracurricular subjects like physical education, music and art.

The passage of the issue would mean an approximate 19-cent increase to the current tax levy of $3.25. So, for example, a person who has a home with an assessed value of $100,000 can expect to pay an additional $36.50 a year in taxes.

"It's critical that taxpayers realize this money can only be spent to build buildings and cannot be utilized for anything else," Buchanan said. R-6 Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller also noted the funds cannot be rolled over by the district, and anything the board does in regards to financing construction has to be the vote of the people.

And unlike revenue or sales tax issues, with a general bond obligation there is no "sunset clause," or defined starting and ending period.

"Our 'sunset' is at the end of paying of the debt," Borgsmiller said.

Currently it's estimated the $4.53 million debt will be paid off in 20 years. This calculation is based on several projections, including issues like how much money does the district expect to receive from the state, is the assessed valuation anticipated to grow, and if so, by how much, Borgsmiller said.

Should the issue be successful, the current junior high facility will become the fifth and sixth grade center; the current middle school facility will become the seventh and eighth grade center; and the site of the alternative facility will be relocated from its location on Moore Street to the current location of the fifth grade center.

Estimated completion of the construction of the math and science center is the second semester of the 2006-2007 school year, and the relocation of grades 5-9 would be the opening of the 2007-2008 school year.

Buchanan, who has spoken to several groups about the issue, said so far the response is positive and supportive of the issue. The Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Downtown Merchants and the Board of Realtors have all unanimously endorsed the bond issue, he said.

"The success of this issue is important to our community because our schools have to be maintained to recruit and retain teachers and doctors to the community," Buchanan said.

The last bond issue put before Sikeston R-6 voters was Nov. 6, 1990. It was for $4 million and among its purposes was to redo computer equipment and other technology, complete renovation of the Field House and make additional classroom space in school facilities. It passed with 61 percent of the votes.

A four-sevenths approval is needed for the issue to pass next month.

"It's really an investment," said McPheeters, whose children are grown. "People don't see tax increases as an investment, but if you sit back and do nothing, it sends a message -- a message you don't want."