By Roger McKinney
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. —
Voters in the Baxter Springs School District on Tuesday will cast ballots on an $8 million bond issue for additions to the high school and elementary school and safe rooms for all school buildings. The plan eliminates the need for the current middle school building.
“The major stimulus for this whole project was the tornado in Joplin,” said Superintendent Dennis Burke. He said that when the school board met after the tornado, administrators and board members realized their plan for storms wasn’t adequate.
“We feel like this plan takes care of student safety and future education needs for quite a ways down the road,” Burke said.
A simple majority vote is required for approval.
The bond issue would require a property tax increase of 9 mills, to 51 mills. The owner of a home in the school district with a market value of $100,000 now pays annual property taxes to the school district of $437 under the current 42-mill tax rate. The increase would boost the homeowner’s tax bill by $103.50, to $540.50.
Burke said the state will pay 58 percent of the construction cost, reducing the amount of the tax increase required for the projects. He also said that money may not be available to the district in the future.
The bond issue would finance a new wing for seventh- and eighth-graders at Baxter Springs High School. It also would pay to build an addition at Central Elementary School for sixth-graders. That building now contains pupils in grades three through five.
The plan also calls for two kindergarten classroom additions at Lincoln Elementary School to serve as storm shelters. A portion of the seventh- and eighth-grade addition at the high school also would function as a safe room. At Central Elementary School, an added dining room would be built to provide storm protection for students.
Burke said if voters approve the measure, it would allow the district to stop using the Baxter Springs Middle School building, which was built in 1918. The building currently has students in grades six through eight.
“It’s in need of some pretty major renovations,” Burke said. “It comes with all the problems of a 94-year-old building.”
He said it also would be difficult and costly to retrofit the building to accommodate modern electronic equipment.
If the bond issue is approved, Burke said the school board would appoint a committee to repurpose the middle school building. Other discontinued school buildings have become senior citizen housing or commercial buildings.
The Baxter Springs School District’s building plans, drawings and an informational brochure are online at usd508.org.