NEOSHO, Mo. —
The Neosho School Board has declared its intention to sit out the July 16 election of the Neosho Transportation Development District board of directors.
President Brett Day said the school panel was leery about interjecting itself into the power struggle between the TDD board and the Neosho City Council.
“It has been a divisive force in the community, and we don’t want to add to that,” Day said after a special meeting of the board Wednesday afternoon.
“We still want to advocate for our students and patrons,” he said. “We do believe that the road improvements need to be made, but when it comes right down to it, we have other projects under way that we need full community support on.”
The district has had a complicated relationship with the TDD. In 2009, representatives of the proposed TDD asked the school district to contribute $850,000 over 15 years for work on the roads that are a concern. Later that year, the Neosho Board of Education voted not to contribute funds to the TDD project. Several safety improvement projects near Neosho Middle School and Carver Elementary were subsequently removed from the project. TDD officials said, without financial support from the school district, they could not afford to include the projects.
Unlike the city, the school district did participate in the TDD half-cent sales tax vote last fall. The board cast its votes in favor of the tax, which currently funds the TDD.
In recent months, the board has been trying to tackle the issue of overcrowding in the district. One solution to the problem would be to build more schools, but that would require a bond issue to be put before voters. Day said this is not the time for the board to make enemies.
“I think it would be bad for us to choose a side on an issue like that and potentially lose the support of the side that we don’t choose,” he said.
Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson attended the meeting. Afterward he said he can understand the board’s position.
“They are in a very difficult position as far as the needs of a potential bond issue coming up in the future,” he said. “It’s their prerogative as a landowner (to abstain). (The City Council) has elected not to vote in previous elections, so I can’t criticize their decision.”
The city did not participate in the initial board election in April 2011. The city also abstained from subsequent votes, including a decision last year to impose a half-cent sales tax within the district.
Davidson said the school board’s decision to abstain throws Tuesday’s board election into question.
“I think it’s fairly well known that, had the school board voted with the city, it would have put us over the top,” he said. “Taking that vote off the table means this election is going to be very close. In my mind it’s probably going to be a 50/50 split with a few votes deciding it.”
A recent study conducted by Newton County Abstract — at the TDD board’s request — indicated that the city’s land ownership within the district is 219 acres — 30 acres less than a 2009 study conducted by the engineering firm of Allgeier Martin and Associates indicated.
Voting in the TDD is determined by land ownership with each landowner receiving one vote for each acre of land owned within the district. Despite the study’s findings, the city of Neosho remains the largest single landowner in the district.
One seat on the TDD board, currently occupied by Jim Cummins, will be up for grabs in Tuesday’s election. Last Friday, the TDD board announced its support for Cummins in the upcoming election. On Tuesday, the City Council voiced its support for Steve Roark to fill the seat.
Two seats on the five-member TDD board will come open in April 2013, and the other two will come open in 2014.
THE NEOSHO TRANSPORTATION DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT was created in 2011 as a taxing district to generate funds for what officials have estimated at $7.5 million in road projects.