by Benjamin Nelson

In the upcoming election, voters who live in the Macon School District, will be faced with a very important proposal on November 7th, 2017; to increase the current tax levy of the district by $0.39, from the current ceiling ($3.0577) to $3.4477 in order to make much needed improvements to the ELEMENTARY complex (over a dozen classrooms, new library, student drop-off/pick-up, energy efficiency, and security). This tax amounts mentioned in the previous sentence, are applicable per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property. If increased, this will run through the tax year, 2032 (also known as the sunset date). In 2016, voters previously struck down a tax levy for the entire School District. This ballot proposal focuses only on the Elementary realm of the District and it also has a sunset date (15 years); the tax would simply go away in 2032 and if the school district wanted it to continue, the public again, would have to vote on it! In total, the principle and interest in this ballot issue, is 11 million dollars less, than the previous ballot proposal and the tax levy is $0.50 less, as well. The principle of this project (borrowed money), is $4,250,000. With borrowing money, comes interest; the total cost of interest would be $1,665,000. Concluding, the TOTAL cost of the entire project will be $5,915,000. The previous ballot issue had a total cost of almost $17,000,000; therefore, making this proposal much cheaper. “This is the taxpayers money and we should be spending it like the taxpayers asked us to spend it.” -Superintendent of Schools, Scott Jarvis

Right now, some classes are being taught in classrooms no bigger than a walk in closet and at times, students are being quietly taught in foldout tables in the hallway, due to the lack of space. If passed, this proposal will allow a new building to be built where it will house the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms. The existing classroom space will open up and allow title reading classes to move in; again, title reading classes are currently being taught in closet sized areas and the hallways. Roughly 12% of students at Macon R-1 Elementary, receive some sort of Special Education; this new project will also expand the special educational resources and their abilities. Currently, in the elementary, Keyboarding is being taught in the cafeteria, due to the lack of classroom availability and space. Teachers, administrators, parents, and other students, constantly pass through the cafeteria while Keyboarding is taking place, possibly and most definitely, making it difficult for students to stay on task and to learn. Early Childhood and Special Education, which used to be located south of Macon, is now located on campus in a trailer which is much smaller in size than the previous location; this project will give an adequate environment to the youngsters who need help; most students in this program need assistance with mobility (wheelchairs, etc.), the current set-up makes it difficult to move around in and to enter/exit. “Bottom line, this is YOUR money and we need to look it as if it was our own. I would definitely want the biggest bang for my buck. Our goal now, is reduce the cost, scope, target the things that we really need most. It is my job to make sure that the money is spent like we said it would be.” -Superintendent of Schools, Scott Jarvis

With many of these initiatives and ballot proposals, wording can be confusing, and/or, information circulating the community can lack factual relativity. In order for any public secondary education institution to function properly and to further the education of young Americans, five parties must work together with integrity, transparency, and professionalism. Those parties include: 1. Teachers, 2. Students, 3. Board Members/Administrators, 4. Parents, and finally, 5. The Community. This specific instance, in order to shine light on the issue at hand, I spoke directly with the Board Members, gathering information to present and report to you, the community. The following questions/answers are authentic and stated in their upmost entirety. Some facts stated below will be similar to the information gathered from Superintendent of Schools, Scott Jarvis

1. Why it is essential for the issue to pass?

The Board of Education feels the elementary building is our greatest need at this time. We have the most students in our elementary building and we have run out of space. In order to keep class sizes at their current level and provide appropriate space for our special classes we need additional classrooms. As we have stated before when the building was built, school districts did not offer all of the different classes we are now required to offer. 

2. Will this lead to future ballot initiatives, considering this only for the elementary?

The Board of education understands there are many needs the district has. However, we also understand the hardship we would put on our community by trying to address all of our needs at once. We believe it is much more realistic to start with a small project now and several years down the road we could attempt to do another small project if neededand the community approved it. In most school districts updating facilities is an ongoing process. However, one must consider the economics of their community. The main elementary building was built in 1952. The main high school building was built in 1964 and the middle school was built in 1930. As one can see our facilities are aging and we believe our district does a good job keeping them functional. We believe it will be much more cost effective to attempt to improve our facilities one step at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. There will come a time when some of our facilities will need to be replaced and by starting now it will be much cheaper than 15 years from now.

3. How out of date is the building compared to other schools?

The main elementary building was built in 1952 and is currently 65 years old. In another 15 years it will be 80 years old. We are not for sure of the age of other districts elementary buildings; however, we feel now is the time to address the needs of our building. In 1952 school districts did not have computers and all of the technology devices we currently have available for our students. In 1952 we did not have the Title 1 reading program, Special Education services was not what it is today, Speech classes were probably not offered and Early Childhood Special Education classes were not required. Many of these classes are taught in very small classrooms and some of the classes are using the hallways to instruct students. We currently provide keyboarding classes for our elementary students and the class is now being taught in the elementary cafeteria. There have been additions to the original building over the years but we are simply running out of adequate classroom space.

4. What will happen if it fails?

If a new structure is not built to address our classroom space issues, we will have to eventually increase classroom sizes. As the classroom sizes increase, there will not be a need to have the same number of staff we currently have. The special classes we offer will continue since they are required by the state. In this scenario, the students will not benefit from having larger class sizes, and you still have the issue of an aging building. The cost of updating the facility will only increase the longer the community waits.

5. Why did it fail last time and what have you guys improved upon?

We believe the reason previous issues have failed were due to the cost and size of the issues. The community voiced their opinion and we are now trying to do a much smaller issue and only addressing what we feel is our greatest need. We have reduced the cost of the project by 11 million dollars compared to our last ballot issue. We have also reduced the amount of the proposed tax levy by 50 cents. The last ballot issue was for 13 million and the interest would have been an additional 4 million. The cost of our current project is $4,250,000 and the interest will be $1,665,000 for a total of $5,915,000. The cost for the previous ballot issue was 17 million and the community told us it was too much. We have listened to the community and drastically reduced the total cost of this project. This ballot issue has a 15 year sunset date. The proposed 39 cent increase will end in 15 years. 

6. Is there a reason why it’s on a “off election year?”

We decided to run the ballot issue now because the longer you wait the likelihood of it costing more increases greatly.  

7. What is your personal stance on it?

As the Board of Education we agreed this was a project the district needed to attempt to have approved by the public. We all understand the challenges our district faces with inadequate classroom space in our current elementary building. As members of the Board of Education it is our responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students. It is also our responsibility to ensure the tax payer’s money is spent appropriately. We feel this project does both of these things.

8. Why is important to create another elementary drop off and pick up entrance?

The Macon County R-1 School District has one main entrance in the front of the campus. In the morning and afternoon this area is very congested with cars and buses.  As stated in our ballot issue, “ if funds are available” after the building is constructed we believe it would be an improvement to create another drop off and pick up area for our elementary students. This would help improve our traffic flow in front of our campus and would be safer for our students. It would also be more convenient for our parents when they are dropping off and picking up their children.

9. Explain why you chose the location to improve upon, what makes it more important over the rest?

At this time we feel our greatest need is our elementary building. We have chosen the site for the new building because it is the most logical place to build. The building will be a stand- alone structure and only be attached to the current building by an enclosed corridor.  By building this structure separate from the existing older structure the cost of construction should be cheaper. When you attach a new building to an older one there are a lot of unforeseen problems involved which increases the cost. This would also allow the district to remove the double wide trailer that was purchased in the 1990’s, and was meant to be a temporary building.

“Public Education is an investment in OUR future.” -Matt Blunt

Writers Note: I urge everyone to vote on Tuesday, November 7th, contact the County Clerk if you have any questions about your polling location (660-385-4631)!

The verbiage of the “Proposition Elementary School Improvements” is as follows: Shall the Board of Education of the Macon County R-1 School District, Missouri, be authorized to increase the operating tax levy ceiling for the purpose of providing funds for constructing an elementary addition including a library, and to the extent funds available, construct a new student drop-off and pick-up area on the south side of the existing elementary? If this proposition is approved, the operating tax levy ceiling of the School District is estimated to increase $0.39 from $3.0577 to $3.4477 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property through Tax Year 2032 (Vote Yes to Approve or Vote No to Disapprove)