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Blair Oaks superintendent: Message clear on new high school plan

Blair Oaks superintendent: Message clear on new high school plan

March 22nd, 2019 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

Blair Oaks High School in Wardsville

Only a few members of the public attended an information session Thursday evening about the Blair Oaks R-2 school district's April 2 ballot issues for a new high school, but Superintendent Jim Jones said the turnout was evidence of the consistency and availability of the district's message.

Thursday night's gathering was the first of two scheduled events to be held at Blair Oaks Elementary School — the next is at 6 p.m. March 28.

Jones gave a presentation on the two ballot propositions that voters in the district will see and make a decision on in 11 days:

Proposition 3 — whether Blair Oaks' Board of Education should issue bonds to pay for borrowing $14 million to develop the site, construct, equip and furnish a new high school and — to the extent of money available — complete other repairs and improvements to existing facilities;

Proposition 4 — whether Blair Oaks' Board of Education should increase the district's operating tax levy by 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in order to pay for a new high school's staff, facility maintenance, educational programs and utilities, and to meet other operating needs of the district.

There were four people who attended Thursday, along with five school board members and Blair Oaks High School Principal Melinda Aholt.

The only question for Jones at the end was whether anyone has come forward to potentially offer some money to help pay for the project in exchange for having their name on a building or part of a building.

"I don't think there's any opposition to that," Jones said, but no one has come forward.

"We've been sending a consistent message," he said of a reason why more people were not at the meeting, adding of the message that "it's available (in) a lot of places."

More information from the school district about Blair Oaks' ballot questions is available at blairoaks.k12.mo.us.

Jones said if the bond issue Proposition 3 were to pass this election, but the operating levy increase Proposition 4 were to fail, then the first phase of a new high school would still be expected to open in August 2021. Two new teachers would still be hired, but the district would prepare 40-cent operating levy increase ballot language for the 2020 election.

If an operating levy increase question was to again fail in 2020, then Jones said the district would still add two more teachers, but it would have to further reduce district fund balances even more so, freeze staff salaries, reduce staff insurance benefits — and perhaps ask staff to contribute to insurance premiums — and prepare 50-cent operating levy increase ballot language for the 2021 election.

The cost over three years of adding the necessary staff to operate a new high school — which would also be the district's fourth building on its campus in Wardsville — comes out to $492,888, Jones said. That would pay for four teachers and nine and half full-time-equivalent custodial, food service, administrative assistant and other support personnel.

He added that a 30-cent operating levy increase this year, still two years out from the opening of the possible new high school, would give the district the flexibility to add staff over time, instead of all at once closer to the school's opening.

A 30-cent operating levy increase during the 2018-19 school year would have resulted in a $332,312 increase in revenue.

The second phase of a new high school would be expected to open in August 2025, assuming voters approve another $5 million bond issue in April 2023, without any increase to the district's debt service levy.