R-2 bond issue fails 4/7ths vote threshold, debt service levy remains unchanged

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 4/12/23

Voters in the Gasconade County R-2 School District failed to pass a no tax increase bond issue on the April 4 ballot by 14 votes, losing the opportunity to improve campus facilities and increase …

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R-2 bond issue fails 4/7ths vote threshold, debt service levy remains unchanged


Voters in the Gasconade County R-2 School District failed to pass a no tax increase bond issue on the April 4 ballot by 14 votes, losing the opportunity to improve campus facilities and increase security measures.

Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy said yesterday (Tuesday) morning that the district was still waiting on the final certified results from Franklin County.

“The Election judges were supposed to come in yesterday to count the military and provisional ballots,” Hardy said. “The Franklin County Clerk said they would call when the results are certified.”

Less than half an hour later the final votes were certified. Although the no tax increase bond issue received the majority vote, it did not receive a 4/7ths majority or an additional 14 votes needed to pass.

Results from Gasconade, Franklin and Crawford counties were 727 yes to 557 no votes.

“This no tax increase bond issue had provisions for upgrades and updated safety and security measures in all four buildings,” Hardy said. “Additional career tech opportunities for students, athletic facility upgrades, along with a storm shelter and performing arts center that would have benefited every student in our district.”

Safety and security as well as early childhood (preschool) education were also part of the no tax increase bond issue.
“It would also allow the community to have facilities to use for events and would have included a better expansion of early childhood (preschool) expansion,” Hardy said.

The Gasconade County R-2 community may eventually notice the absence of a paid preschool expansion program, upgrades to security measures and extensive wear and tear of the turf on the football field.

“The debt service levy would allow us to have the upgrades to our facilities,” Hardy said. “The turf on the football field is out off warranty and those things are going to need to be updated. Over the next three years, you are going to see a lot of wear and tear on that, and it will not be covered.”

At some point, community members may begin to question the safety compromise when agriculture, career technology, and athletic students open two sets of doors each hour of the day to travel from the main campus to the agriculture building, unsheltered and openly accessible.

Those who have advocated for career technology and trades classes to be brought back to the high school may eventually question why only 30 students are included on the roster. They may wonder at the materials used to teach the classes, and the small spaces available. Without funds from the bond issue, the trial-based class may struggle to be sustainable.

A FEMA-approved storm shelter, doubling as a performing arts center that was to house an athletic training facility, acoustic band and choir room, arts classrooms and provide a connection from the high school to the ag building would have resolved a list of the Long Range Planning Committee’s concerns about the high school campus.

Many community members will also notice the status quo of their tax bill.

“It was a no tax increase bond issue,” Hardy said. “Taxes won’t go up and taxes won’t go down.”

Hardy said it is true that a no tax increase bond issue extends the time table of the tax, currently paid through 2033. This ballot question requested a further extension through 2044. This same tax for school district capital improvements has funded building renovations, roofs, school buses, technology, text books — tangible tools the district needs to successfully educate community students.

However, letting the debt service levy go removes the district’s ability to apply for low-interest bonds and sets it on the path of high-interest lease purchase agreements. The worst case scenario is paying more for less, all energy into maintaining campuses rather than growing and improving them.

“If we don’t stay up-to-date (on the debt service levy), our buildings will start to run down,” Hardy said. “Lighting and turf improvements, HVAC boiler system, we still have to maintain those — they are paid for out of our capital improvements funding. Essentially, what would happen is without extending the debt service levy, these things would be taken out of operating costs and would cause us to have to put off some maintenance items and take funding out of operations.”

While many neighboring school districts ask for twice the debt service levy taxes to pay for tangible improvements such as buildings and buses, Gasconade County R-2 has been able to provide for improvements and big maintenance items on 67 cents per every $100 of assessed valuation.

The board of education attempts to build regular maintenance items into the budget so that all capital improvement funds are used to make the facility better.

Roofs, floors and such are on rotation since the last bond issue and built into the building maintenance budget so that the district doesn’t have to use the debt service levy for upkeep, said Hardy.

“Capital improvements funding will allow us to maintain parking lots, floors, buses, tuck pointing — and it all comes out of a $3.18 per a $100 assessed valuation operating levy,” Hardy said. “We don’t want to see your taxes go up. We want to remain committed to using the 67-cent debt service levy set and be able to continue with renovations and building upgrades to our facilities without a raise in taxes.”

Hardy said the next step is up to the board of education, but they have the option to run the ballot question again in August or November 2023 or April of 2024, starting the process over.

The Long-Range Planning Facility Committee is ready, but bids for architects would have to be re-ran and a selection process repeated.

“We have an amazing campus,” Hardy said. “Unfortunately without this passing our kids don’t have the same opportunities as most kids in our conference.”

Voters in Gerald approved the R-2 question 245 to 148. The Detmold-Jaegers Shop precinct voted 41 to 25 for the proposal. Leslie voters cast 31 votes for the proposal and 25 against it. Absentee ballots were 20 to 14 for the measure in Franklin County. One no vote was cast in Leslie.

Owensville Ward 1 voters supported the question in Gasconade County by an 87 to 46 margin. Ward 2 voters approved the question a slim 65 to 61 margin.

The question failed in Drake (43 votes against to 24 for approval), Rosebud (38 against, 30 for it), Boulware (12 against to 11 in favor), Redbird (10 against to 8 in favor), and Tayloe (36 against to 33 in favor).

The question received approval in Bland/Canaan (40-28), Rural Canaan (155-118), and Third Creek (52-30). Those casting absentee ballots in Gasconade County cast 12 yes votes and 3 no votes.

The vote in Crawford County was one vote for the question and three against. Results were certified on Monday in both Franklin and Gasconade counties.