March Update on Levy Issue

March 10, 2020

Written by Dr. Jim Cummins, Superintendent of Neosho School District

As The Next Step campaign kicked into high gear last week, it started to generate questions, need for clarification, and even some misinformation. Today’s article will attempt to provide information to assist voters in their decisions. I am a strong believer in the election process. The challenge is to make sure voters have accurate data, are given adequate opportunity to see for themselves the facilities we are looking to upgrade, and feel like their questions have been addressed.

Safety

Will patrons be allowed to use the new saferooms? The board of education has made it clear to administration that they want the shelters open to the public. We will make sure that happens. The storm shelters at Benton and Middle School will be traditional shelters, and should be no problem. We will work on the logistics at Field and Central as those will be smaller metal structures. After hours is not a problem, it is the school day storms that can be a bit of a challenge.

Trailers

A very legitimate question is why propose all of these upgrades and still have trailers at Central. A proposal has been presented to the board that would repurpose Central as an education center for grades 1-4 focused on 21st Century skills; communications, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and civic consciousness. It is proposed that 180 students would be taught in this project-based-learning environment. ALL classrooms would be inside the building thus eliminating the trailers. So, although not technically a part of the levy issue, the trailers would be taken out in the summer of 2021, and the new configuration would be in place for the 2021-22 school year.

Prop C / Teacher Raises

It has been shared broadly that the Prop C waiver will go directly to improving the wages of staff; ALL non-administrative staff. The question is, can this be guaranteed? There are really two sides one has to use to approach this question. First, if raises are put in place with the passage of the levy increase, it is highly unlikely that the rate would ever go backwards. In my career, I do not recall ever seeing a wage rate decreased. So, in essence, the increase would be “guaranteed” going forward. The other side is I, as superintendent, nor the current school board, can put a budget in place for more than one year at a time. In other words, we cannot make decisions for future superintendents or boards. One way school districts sometimes get around this is to designate a portion of the levy to Fund 2. Fund 2 is where teachers are paid. This is great for securing a permanent levy for teacher pay; however, it has been made clear we want to use the Prop C waiver to boost all non-administrative wages; paras, secretaries, custodians, cooks, bus drivers, etc.

You can click here to find out more about what a Proposition C waiver is and why it is needed by the Neosho School District.

Spending

How will we know the levy increase is spent on the items that have been proposed? I would encourage you to look at the board minutes for the last year. You will see a detailed reporting of the budget and every dollar spent on Goodman. We plan to have the same type of monthly reporting, so that everything can be tracked by the public. As a former CPA, it is very important to me that all accounting for these projects is transparent and accurate.

Informed Voting

A note was recently posted on vehicles in a Neosho subdivision. The note stated “it will raise your taxes about $675 annually.” I did some research. Depending on which of the four streets one lives on in this particular subdivision, taxes would increase on their residential property between $5 to $7 per month; approximately $70-80 per year. Please make an effort to be informed with facts before voting on April 7.

Thank you for all of your support of Neosho schools!