Someone always wants more tax dollars and in this case it is the JC Public Schools (JCPS) asking for another $5.5 million per year ($2.5 million levy increase and $3 million bond issue). Here are some facts to help you decide how to vote.
JCPS budget is about $80 million per year. Based on my review, this seems more than adequate without the $2.5 million (25-cent operating levy increase) being requested. JCPS currently has one reserve fund with a $21 million balance. This is $5.6 million over the state recommended amount. There is another fund that has a $3 million balance even after buying $3.1 million in land for the new school. JCPS is also expecting an increase of more than $800,000 tax revenue for the next budget year.
The proposed levy increase would be used for teacher training, technology equipment purchases, transportation, and purchase safety/security equipment. These training and technology equipment costs are not new and should already be accounted for in every budget. The transportation and safety/security equipment could be addressed with the $5.6 million in surplus reserve funds plus additional projected revenue.
In addition, JCPS proposes to give teachers $882,000 in raises next year and still ask for this levy increase. My research shows JCPS teachers are paid well compared to other local schools but, this doesn't seem to equate to markedly better student MAP test results. Is this levy increase really necessary?
The $79 million bond request to build a new school has not been documented well enough financially. Originally we were told all these funds were needed for a new High School but, now this is enough to build a grade school, also. How can we trust that this is how much is needed? All we have been shown is a conceptual design of the project and no hard costs.
The land for the proposed new school was bought with extra funds. The decision to build one school and do academies feels like it was forced on everyone. JCPS tells us they feel they will grow but, the population of Jefferson City remains constant. With the dropout rates and growing number of parochial schools, will growth happen? I suggest the bond issue should not be approved without further detailed financial exploration.
Please vote no on the unnecessary levy increase and undocumented financial costs of the bond increase on April 2.