By Kelsey Ryan
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Voters in the Joplin School District on Tuesday approved a $62 million bond issue by less than 1 percent of the required majority, giving the district the funds to rebuild schools that were destroyed in the May 22 tornado.
“We’re excited, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Superintendent C.J. Huff moments after hearing the results of the election. “I just want to thank everyone for the support. It was certainly a big win for the kids, and certainly we’ll have the opportunity to follow through with our promises to get the job done.”
School bond issues have historically been close at the polls, Huff said, and this was no exception. The measure required a four-sevenths, or 57.14 percent, majority to pass. In Jasper and Newton counties, 4,982 of 8,637 voters said “yes,” which was 57.68 percent. The totals are final but unofficial.
Mackenzie Robinson, the PTO president for East Middle School and Eastmorland Elementary, was ecstatic about the passage of the issue.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! We’re very excited,” Robinson said Tuesday night.
“I definitely thought it was going to be close. But I didn’t think it would be that close. But we’ll take it if it passed. It just takes that one vote. I’m just really proud of our community to come together. This is going to be good for the future of Joplin and all of these kids. I’m proud to call Joplin home.”
The estimated rebuilding cost for all the schools and other associated projects is $185 million. Total estimated insurance, government funding and donations now stand at $123 million, leaving the $62 million gap.
Some Joplin parents said they were happy about some of the upgrades that will be included in the projects, but they worry about some expenditures by the district now that the bond issue has passed.
“I did not go and vote because I was torn on the issue, and I think they were asking for more than they need,” said Carrie Close, who has a first-grader who attends Emerson Elementary. “I think that they spend a lot of money on stuff that’s not necessary for a public school. But I’m pleased that there will be some upgrades like storm shelters added, and some of the things were necessary.”
The school district’s current property levy is $3.31 per $100 of assessed valuation, which means the owner of a $100,000 home pays about $630 in annual taxes on real property to the district. Because the bond issue passed, the new levy will be $3.66, and the cost to that same homeowner will be about $695 annually — an increase of about $65.
Bond issue projects
• Combined Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center at an expanded JHS site.
• East Middle School and an elementary school housing Duenweg and Duquesne pupils at the East campus.
• Irving Elementary, which will house pupils from the destroyed Irving and Emerson elementaries at a site donated by Sisters of Mercy Health System.
• Community storm shelters at all schools except North and South middle schools
• Repairs and upgrades at other elementary schools.