The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 19, 2010

School bond issues on tap in Monett, Pierce City

Voters in Monett, Pierce City head to polls April 6

By Wally Kennedy

Voters in the Pierce City School District and the Monett School District will face bond-issue proposals April 6.

Pierce City’s district, which has territory in Barry, Lawrence and Newton counties, is proposing to borrow $3.9 million for the construction, equipping and furnishing of a new middle school. The district’s debt-service levy would be increased by 33 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Monett’s district, which has territory in Barry and Lawrence counties, wants to borrow $4.5 million for the construction, equipping and furnishing of additional classrooms at an existing elementary school complex. The district’s debt-service levy would continue at 56 cents, but it would be extended.

John Jungmann, superintendent at Monett, said Proposition CUBS, or Citizens United for Better Schools, will help provide funding for a $7 million project that would upgrade Monett’s elementary complex. The complex serves 550 to 600 students in kindergarten through the second grade.

“We are targeting the elementary campus, which was constructed in the 1960s using the Arizona or California model,’’ he said. “We have nine buildings with no interior corridors for 5- to 8-year-olds to attend.’’

Jungmann said the project would connect the buildings under one roof to promote “safety, security, teaching effectiveness and efficiency.’’ Jungmann said that model of construction reflects “different times, different needs. They could not afford halls. What that did was create 50 exterior doors in those nine buildings.’’

The project would add 50,000 square feet of new classroom space and would renovate 30,000 square feet of existing space.

The district, he said, anticipates significant savings in terms of energy costs and the gaining of instructional time.

Jungmann said the district plans to use $1 million in capital reserves and borrow up to $1.5 million in a lease-purchase agreement to augment the financing through the bond issue.

The district will seek Qualified School Construction Bonds and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds that are available to the state through federal stimulus funding that totals $140 million. The bond money is available to issue to schools that pass bond issues. The interest rate is zero or almost zero.

“We would like to borrow $1.5 million to $2 million at low interest,” Jungmann said. “The low rate will amount to significant interest savings over the life of the bonds.’’

The QSCB bonds are for 15 to 20 years. The bond issue, which needs a four-sevenths majority to pass, would be for 20 years.

The district has a 2003 bond issue that will expire in 2023. The district is making the final payments on a 1994 high school bond issue.

“This bond issue will offset that high school bond issue,” Jungmann said. “That’s how we can keep the debt-service levy at 56 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The time frame for the debt will be extended, but the taxpayers would continue to pay the same amount.

“We would not create an additional burden on them next year. The school board wants to do the project, but not ask for more money.’’

The 56-cent portion of the district’s total levy on a $100,000 house costs its owner $106.40 annually.

Pierce City

At Pierce City, school officials have decided to resubmit a bond issue proposal that voters nixed last fall.

“It’s exactly the same,’’ said Russ Moreland, superintendent at Pierce City. “We want to pass a $3.9 million bond issue to construct a two-story middle school and a new vocational-agriculture building.’’

The proposal last fall was endorsed by 51 percent of those voting, but a four-sevenths, or 57.1 percent, majority was needed for passage. The same majority will be needed to pass the measure Tuesday.

“We had a lot of positive feedback from people who said they wanted us to run it again,’’ he said. “We’re going to do a better job this time of informing more people about what’s on the ballot, because we still had folks on the day of the election who were not sure about what we were wanting to do.’’

Moreland said voters are being reminded that the economy has lowered construction costs, and that interest rates are low in that the district could benefit from the issuance of Qualified School Construction Bonds and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds.

“The potential savings for the patrons could be very significant,’’ he said. “The patrons will be glad that we have done this now after we get down the road three of five years, and construction costs and interest rates have gone up.’’

The district’s debt-service levy is 66 cents per $100 assessed valuation. If the bond issue is approved, it would increase by 33 cents. Property taxes on a $100,000 house would increase by $62.70 a year, Moreland said.

The district’s total levy would increase from $3.41 to $3.74. The owner of the $100,000 home would see his annual school tax bill increase from $647 to $709.70.