More than 40 years since the last time they approved a debt service levy for the school district, voters will face a ballot question, whether or not to financially support a construction project at Scotland County R-I School district. Voters will be asked to decide the fate of a ballot proposal seeking to generate funds for a proposed pre-school addition as well as numerous other campus upgrades.
On April 5, 2016 voters in the school district will decide the fate of the proposed $4 million bond issue, which would create a $0.40 levy. The issue will require a 4/7 majority vote (57.143%) for approval.
The proposal is seeking to fund the expansion of early childhood education with construction of four classrooms on campus while also creating space to increase instructional support services such as therapy, life skills and special education on campus.
Additional improvements will enhance square footage for expanding music and world language offerings, accommodating a weight room, replacing the football locker room and increasing storage under one roof.
Funding is also being sought to replace the baseball, football and softball field lights and completing track facility improvements.
Upgrading heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and controls at the elementary school will also be funded by the levy as well as installing security systems for the high school and newly constructed buildings.
In November of 2014, the district asked for a $5 million bond issue to fund a proposed brick and mortar expansion on the campus to house a new preschool program. The Proposition K.I.D.S. proposal failed 1,026 – 464.
Since then, the district has completed more than $200,000 in projects previously proposed for funding in the 2014 levy issue, including security upgrades at the elementary school, sidewalk and vestibule repairs and technology improvements.
The district also has shifted from a brick and mortar design that would have relocated the current elementary school playground, to a pre-engineered metal building proposal that has been designed around the playground.
The costs savings combined with the completed projects have allowed the levy issue to be lowered from $5 million to $4 million, which drops the rate from $0.65 to $0.40.
The SCR-I Board of Education will host public forums on March 8th at 6:30 p.m. in the high school gym, and March 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Memphis Theatre, to discuss the ballot issue and to answer questions.
If approved, the levy would mean a $76 property tax increase for every $100,000 in appraised real estate value. A vehicle appraised at $20,000 would cost the taxpayer an additional $28.64 a year in personal property tax. A 500 acre farm with assessed valuation at soil grade level 4, would see a tax increase of $97.20 annually.
Currently, SCR-I is just one of two conference schools that does not have a debt service levy and the SCR-I tax levy rests at the bottom of the list of schools in the former Tri-Rivers Conference and the new Lewis & Clark Conference.
Marceline has the highest tax levy at $4,6542 followed by Harrisburg at $4.5611, Salisbury $4.4697, Fayette at $4.2528 and Schuyler County at $4.20. Also coming in higher than SCR-I’s current levy rate of $3.3829, are Paris ($3.7986, North Shelby ($3.7831), Knox County ($3.7615), Westran ($3.75), Putnam County ($3.6892) and Clark County ($3.5007)
The average levy rate for the 12 schools (including Clark County) is $3.9837.
Even if approved for the $0.40 increase, SCR-I would leapfrog just four schools, and would still remain below the 12 school average.
School safety is being tabbed as a top priority of the proposed levy. Proponents note that the new construction would connect existing buildings and would allow the elimination of 12 different unregulated entrances to campus buildings.
“We have over a dozen entrances that we have to keep unlocked throughout the school day due to buildings and classrooms outside of the main school building,” said Superintendent Ryan Bergeson. “Most of those are areas that could go undetected. These additional entrances also make supervision of our students very difficult. Including students under one roof would proactively prevent further safety concerns while significantly decreasing maintenance costs.”