The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 21, 2014

Neosho School Board discusses August election on bond issue

NEOSHO, Mo. — The Neosho Board of Education may try again in August to get voter approval of a bond issue for a new junior high school.

Monday night’s meeting was the first meeting back for board member Jonathan Russell since he was hospitalized with serious complications from the flu. He was using a cane and wearing a leg brace and had lost a lot of weight since he was last at a board meeting. He was selected as board vice president during reorganization.

The $24 million bond issue for a new junior high school on April 8 fell short of the 57.1 majority needed for passage, receiving almost 52 percent support from those casting ballots. The issue called for a 115,000-square-foot building at Kodiak Road and Maple Street, adjacent to Carver Elementary School. The two-story building was to have housed seventh- and eighth-graders.

A 24-cent property tax increase would have been required to finance the project. That would have increased the property taxes for the owner of a house in the district with an appraised value of $100,000 by $45.60, or nearly 8 percent, annually.

Crowding in existing buildings was given as the reason the building was needed.

“We made a valiant effort, but we didn’t achieve the level we wanted to,” said Superintendent Dan Decker. He said the committee members who promoted the bond issue told him that they want to build on the momentum they have and place the issue on the ballot in August. He said that’s something the board must decide.

An August election also would require a 57.1 percent, or four-sevenths, majority.

Board President Brett Day said those he has talked with have told him to try again.

“Without exception, they said get it back out there as soon as possible,” Day said.

Decker said the plan might be adjusted to accommodate about 900 students, rather than the 765 students in the April building plan, without increasing the cost.

Day said he thinks the lack of an illustration of the building plans may have played a role in the election defeat. During discussion, it was revealed that full plans from the architect, with drawings, could cost as much as $125,000.

“A picture certainly is powerful,” Day said.

Russell said there may be a danger in placing the issue back on the ballot so quickly.

“I think August is very quick to go back,” Russell said. “I think you’d almost inspire the ‘no’ vote.”

He said, however, that the April vote was positive.

“More people did say ‘yes,’” he said. “It wasn’t enough, but more people did say ‘yes.’”

Patron Insight, a polling and consulting firm hired by the district, conducted a phone survey of district voters in December in which 68 percent of respondents said they would support a bond issue for a junior high school. Decker and Day were asked during a break in the meeting how the poll could be so wrong.

“I don’t have a good answer for you,” Decker said. He said the company has asked him to provide documentation about how the campaign was conducted.

“My fear is too many of them stayed home,” Day said about voters, including those who responded favorably to the phone survey.

“We’re going to get it done,” Day said.

New members

NEW BOARD MEMBERS Keri Collinsworth and Kim Wood on Monday took their places at the board table. Board members Lynn Otey and Caroline Perigo stepped down.

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