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The Jefferson City School District's current acquisition of property near Jefferson City High School has drawn support and criticism, with both sides offering good arguments.

We tend to think the acquisition is justified.

After the May 22 tornado, the district was approached by several property owners who asked if it was interested in buying their tornado-damaged properties.

The school board knew it could use the land, primarily for athletic fields. So it dealt with the issue publicly but delicately. Delicately, because the housing that was damaged was primarily low-income housing. The tornado exacerbated the need for such housing in the city.

Some people argued the school district's plan would remove that low-income housing. But the tornado had already done that, and the property owners wouldn't have looked to sell if rebuilding was a better option for them.

Does the district need the land?

No, it could continue to get by without it. But voters' passage of a property tax increase in 2017 wasn't just to build a new high school — it also paid to renovate the current high school. The goal was to create equal educational and sports opportunities for students at both schools.

As we recently reported, CCHS opened in August with ready-to-use soccer, track and football practice areas. Tennis courts will be ready for competition by spring. The baseball and softball field at CCHS will be for practice only, with a plan for competition-ready space in the future.

Meanwhile, at JCHS, Adkins Stadium hosts football and track events. Baseball, softball, soccer and tennis use off-campus facilities at 179 Soccer Field, Vivion Field, Ellis-Porter Riverside Park and Washington Park to practice.

The purchase of the properties would improve that situation, allowing more practices/competitions at JCHS.

Some critics of the move have argued that the new high school is an unnecessary "Taj Mahal," and students will do just fine without new "sports arenas" at the old high school.

Another critic also pointed out in a letter to the editor that the district's purchase of the land will effectively take $2 million in property off the tax rolls, since the school district is tax-exempt. That will reduce the amount of property taxes the county collects.

While this is true, the effect will be small compared to the overall property tax collection.

Plus, there's a need for more affordable housing in our community. That discussion isn't being swept under the carpet. When that need is filled, we believe that also will more than offset any revenue displaced by the school district's current property purchases.

News Tribune

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