To the editor:
In the last week, there have been several letters published in the Times regarding a possible future school bond election for Leavenworth Unified School District 453. I wish to provide a couple of facts for people to consider on this subject.
1. The Board of Education has not yet decided on calling for a bond issue. The board is having a special session Feb. 6 in the district central office. The meeting will further examine the report made at the Jan. 17 regular board meeting. It is an open meeting and the public is welcome to observe the process.
2. The bonds issued in 1998 will be paid off this year. School bonds do have time limits. Property taxes for Leavenworth businesses and homeowners located within the geographic limits of USD 453 will go down to reflect the payoff of those bonds. A majority of those taxpayers voting on a particular bond issue have to approve the issuing of any new bonds. The USD 453 BOE cannot commit Leavenworth taxpayers to a bond issue without a vote by the public.
3. Bond issues are stated in the same way that home loans are advertised. If you believe that bonds should be advertised as construction costs plus total interest over the life of the loans, then I urge you to petition your elected Kansas and U.S. congressional representatives and senators to have them require home loans to be advertised in the same way.
4. It is unlikely that the USD 453 BOE will propose a bond issue this spring. The Kansas Legislature put a dollar limit on how much school construction the state will support in a given year. Within that limit the state currently pays roughly 25 percent of costs. Current, ongoing school bond campaigns elsewhere in Kansas already reached that dollar cap for 2018. The USD 453 BOE is not going to propose a bond issue to its Leavenworth voters that lacks that state support. The only way that any state dollars would be available to back a Leavenworth school bond election is if one of those existing school bond campaigns was rejected by that school district’s voters this spring.
5. Last September the thought process was that USD 453 could develop a bond issue to take care of its previously identified needs by December 2017 in time for it to be considered within those state funding caps for 2018. That did not occur because the process used involved classroom teachers, parents and community members studying the issue and took longer than expected. These volunteers examined and explored some second- and third-order effects of these courses of action such as general fund transportation costs not supported by the Kansas funding formula. It took longer than originally scheduled because there was not a single predetermined top-down solution.
Editor’s note: Douglas Darling is a member of the USD 453 Board of Education.