Proposition Wildcat Meeting

By Shari Harris,

Co-Publisher

The Licking R-VIII School District held their second community meeting on Thu., March 21, regarding Proposition Wildcat, the school bond issue on the April 2nd ballot. The meeting included speakers and questions from the community; it was conducted in the elementary school cafeteria, followed by tours of the trailers. Some voters remained after the tours for one-on-one question and answer sessions with Superintendent Cristina Irwin.
Irwin explained that safety issues (weather and intruder) with the trailers, deterioration of the trailers, and a need for expansion of the elementary cafeteria drove the decision to request Proposition Wildcat. Irwin discussed the planned capital expenditures if the bond passes, including expanding the elementary and moving all classrooms inside; increasing cafeteria size; allowing easier, covered access to the FEMA gym; and providing a covered entrance to allow parent drop-off and pick-up separate from the school buses.
Irwin reviewed the bond history of the Licking R-VIII school district, with bonds used in the late 1890’s to buy the Licking College buildings for the district’s use. For the past 24 years, the operating levy has remained at $2.75 (the lowest State mandated level). Despite the rising costs of operating a school district, the District has been able to maintain during that time without a debt service levy.
A question on everyone’s mind was what their cost would be. Superintendent Irwin presented an example of how much the taxes would increase for a specific price home, and provided charts so people can determine what their individual cost would be.
Voters asked other pertinent questions, including how a person on a fixed income would be able to afford the increase. Irwin provided flyers and explained the Missouri Property Tax Credit available to certain senior citizens and 100 percent disabled individuals. The credit is for a maximum of $750 for renters and $1,100 for owners and is based on amount of property tax paid and total household income, taxable and nontaxable.
One voter expressed concern that reassessment is happening this year, so there existed an uncertainty related to at what amount his property would actually be assessed.
Another asked about plans for the trailers if the bond passes. Irwin reported the plan is to sell them.
A mother of a handicapped child shared the effects of the weather on her child, who has to be bundled up and pushed around the building or between buildings in a wheelchair due to the inaccessibility of the school and the trailer classrooms.
Irwin assured that the debt service levy would be for 20 years; at the end of that time, it would require a vote to extend the levy if the District felt it was necessary.
Dr. Daniel Hatch discussed how the benefits of the new Science Building at the High School had affected his students and the teaching staff psychologically, giving the students more learning opportunities due to the improvements.
Larry J. Hart, CEO, and Neil A. Branham, Senior Financial Analyst, of LJ Hart & Company also attended the meeting. LJ Hart & Company will be the bond underwriter if Proposition Wildcats passes. Hart explained the bonds would be made available in $5,000 increments, and will be offered locally first to banks and individuals. Under today’s conditions, he estimated the interest rate would likely be 2.1 to 3.25 percent.
There is less than one week to make your decision. Election day is next Tuesday, April 2. Irwin assured she is available and welcomes your questions about Proposition Wildcats.

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