With a goal of improved student safety as well as expanding and upgrading facilities, the Scotland County R-I School District will ask voters on Tuesday to approve a $1.6 million tax levy issue.
Proposition 2 on the April 4th ballot will seek to implement a $0.16 debt service levy that would allow the district to borrow $1.6 million to fund an approximately 8,500 square foot expansion to the campus that would house a new band room, additional classrooms as well as an early childhood development center. Bring more of the district’s facilities under one roof would allow the installation of additional security measures to control unwanted access to the facilities.
The bond issue would also fund safety enhancements and renovations of the existing facility in addition to the four new early childhood classrooms, a therapy and nursing room, a new band room for the high school, in addition to three more classrooms and additional storage.
Plans call for the construction of a roughly 150-foot long addition to connect the high school and elementary school.
The district has not maintained a debt service levy since 1994, when the district retired a 20-year bond approved by voters in 1974 for the construction of the high school. If approved by the voters, the debt service levy would increase from $0.00 to $0.16.
The board of education has worked over the past two years searching for alternative funding options while also paring down proposed expansion plans and renovation costs, since an initial levy proposal first went to the voters in 2015.
In November of that year, voters said no to a $5 million bond issue, before voting no again in April 2016 on a pared down $4 million proposal. The district went back to voters in August of 2016 seeking $3.3 million, again being rejected.
The district scrapped plans from the initial bond issues to install an all-weather track, a new football concession stand, build a new weight room and add on to the library. The school also has worked with local boosters to repair the existing softball and baseball field lights while agreeing to pursue a used system to replace the outdated lights at the football field instead of purchasing new.
Other changes from the initial proposals include greater utilization of existing facilities. Superintendent Ryan Bergeson explained the new plan calls for renovating areas such as the Ag building, that in addition to the expansion project, is intended to bring the Life Skills and the elementary school library back under one roof, along with the preschool program. Other cost saving measures were made in the design and architecture scheme for the expansion. “The proposed design is smaller, and it is a simple, straight design, both of which helped reduce the cost projections,” said Bergeson.
With its levy at $3.50 this year, the Scotland County R-I district has the lowest levy rate in the Lewis & Clark Conference.
Westran comes in second lowest at $3.75 but also has an assessed property valuation of nearly three times as much as the SCR-I district.
The rest of the conference school’s rate are as follows: Harrisburg – $5.25, Marceline – $4.67, Salisbury – $4.47, Fayette – $4.25, Schuyler County – $4.20, Knox County – $3.83, and Paris – $3.78.
If approved the bond issue would raise the SCR-I tax levy to $3.66, still lowest in the conference, and still below other area schools such as Canton ($3.72), Putnam County ($3.73), Kirksville ($4.20), Brashear ($4.22), Monroe City ($4.24) and Novinger ($4.26).