Leavenworth Board of Education members made no decisions Tuesday regarding a proposed bond issue, but they offered guidance to architects who have been working on the plans.

Leavenworth Board of Education members made no decisions Tuesday regarding a proposed bond issue, but they offered guidance to architects who have been working on the plans.

Last month, board members were presented a proposal for a $42 million bond issue. The proposal called for the opening of an early education center for prekindergarten and kindergarten classes, an addition to Richard Warren Middle School for fifth- and sixth-grade classes and the closing of Lawson Elementary School.

Board members have not yet voted to move forward with a bond issue, which ultimately would have to be approved by voters.

Board members met Tuesday for a work session to discuss the bond proposal.

The meeting began with a half hour video that focused on issues addressed in the bond proposal. The video featured district staff members as well as people who served on a committee that worked on the bond issue.

Then, representatives of DLR Group, Overland Park, reviewed elements of the bond proposal. Staff from the architectural and engineering firm have been assisting the district with the bond proposal.

Board member Loyal Torkelson asked about the location of the new early education center.

Amber Beverlin with DLR Group said the school would be centrally located in the district if possible. She said the committee that worked on the proposal was interested in finding an existing building in the community to renovate into the early education center.

During last month's school board meeting, Beverlin provided photographs of an early education center in Kearney, Missouri, that opened in what was formerly a supermarket.

The $42 million proposal for a bond issue in Leavenworth includes $12 million for the early education center.

Torkelson questioned how officials with DLR Group know the cost when a building has not yet been purchased for the center.

James French with DLR Group said the $12 million is a "soft" estimate.

"We really don't know," he said.

With bonds from an earlier bond issue scheduled to be paid off soon, Superintendent Mike Roth has said district officials believe a $42 million bond issue could be enacted without raising the school system's mill levy.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

Kevin Gullett, chief financial officer for the school district, said the mill levy could remain flat if a bond issue is passed in time to allow new bonds to be sold during the 2018-2019 school year.

Otherwise, there would be a decrease in the mill levy as a result of the old bonds being paid off.

Roth expressed concern about the possible reaction to a request to increase property taxes for a new bond issue after taxes already have been reduced. He said the situation would go from a positive to a negative.

Board President Mike Carney noted that property taxes increased as a result of the district's last bond issue. Carney said he does not believe there would be a lot of opposition if a good plan is presented.

Even if the mill levy remains flat, board member Nancy Klemp said a $42 million bond issue still would be a tax.

Klemp said the bond issue would be a hard sell for a school district that does not have a growing student population.

"Do you have a $20 million project available?" she said at one point.

Beverlin said one option that had been looked at had an estimated cost of $22 million.

This option would have adjusted the attendance area boundaries to equalize enrollment at the district's four elementary schools. And under this option, six classrooms would have been added at Richard Warren Middle School to address overcrowding at that location.

During the meeting, Matt Dedeke, facilities director for the district, reviewed another option of using modular classrooms to address overcrowding at Henry Leavenworth Elementary School and Richard Warren Middle School.

"It's a less expensive option than construction and it's a quick solution," he said.

He estimated that it would cost $1.02 million to purchase and set up two six-room modular units at Warren Middle and one six-room unit at Henry Leavenworth Elementary.

Carney said he considered this option a "total non-starter."

"I don't want to see a bunch of trailers around the buildings," he said.

Roth also reviewed options for redrawing the attendance area boundaries for the district's four elementary schools to adjust enrollment totals at these buildings.

Board Vice President Doug Darling said he wanted to get the easy stuff out of the way first. He suggested moving forward with adjusting the elementary school attendance boundaries.

"We're going to have to do something," he said.

Roth said changing the boundaries will impact the socio-economic makeup of the elementary buildings.

Darling said he also would like to see cost estimates for converting the Lawson Elementary building into an early education center.

Darling said he was happy with other parts of the proposal for the $42 million bond issue.

Carney asked if anyone had talked with Leavenworth city officials about the possibility of vacating Johnson Street to the south of the Lawson Elementary property. He suggested this would provide more space for the site.

Torkelson said Lawson is not a good location for an early education center because it is on two levels and the steps are not good for prekindergarten and kindergarten students.

Torkelson said he would like to place an early education center at the Anthony Elementary School building.

French said there seemed to be some interest in possibly placing an early education center at Lawson. He asked if the DLR Group also should examine the potential cost of using a vacant building in the community.

Darling said it probably would be worthwhile to look at another site.

Board members likely will discuss the proposed bond issue again when they meet Feb. 21.

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