by Stephanie Eaton
Even though the Platte County R-3 Board of Education decided to wait a year before approaching the voters about a proposed tax increase to fund various school improvements and the construction of a new elementary school, the public is already approaching the board about what steps are being done to help save money for those projects.
Earlier this month, the R-3 board met for a growth management work session to determine when to bring before voters the idea of an increase in the district's tax levy for the construction of a new elementary school and upgrade to other educational facilities.
The proposed 2014 Capital Plan consisted of adding a new elementary school in Platte City and an addition to Pathfinder Elementary School. The proposed 2014 Capital Plan had an estimated project cost of $22 million.
However, after much discussion, the school board decided against bringing the increase in the tax levy to voters in April 2014 and will look at bringing the topic to voters in 2015.
Although there was a delay in the vote, it did not stop one resident from approaching the board with questions.
Janet Stark approached the Platte County School Board during the public comment portion of the school board meeting held Thursday night.
Stark said that she had attended the previous month's board meeting and had read articles in various newspapers about the delay in the vote for the proposed tax increase. While Stark said she supported the board's decision, she said she was left with a few questions to ask the board.
“Is the school district currently saving money right now toward the new school that we all want to build?” Stark questioned.
Stark said if the school district was saving money for the new school, she would like to know how much the district was saving. She said if the district had not set aside funds, she questioned why they were not setting aside funds to help pay for the construction of the new school and improvements.
“I know that in the last two years we have given all the teachers a 2.7 percent increase. I am all for teachers and I am all for them getting their fair wages, what they have earned and worked hard for,” Stark said. “But if we have extra money to be giving them, we are not saving. . .but yet we are coming back to taxpayers wanting an increase. I do not think that's going to go over real well with taxpayers. Taxpayers want to see if you are doing all that you can to pay your debt down and you are saving what you can toward the project,” Stark said.
While the board did not immediately respond to Stark's comments or questions, at the end of the meeting two board members did speak about delaying the tax increase vote.
Board member Julie Vanover told those in attendance the decision to delay approaching the voters about the increase in tax levy was not an easy decision.
“Most of you are aware of our decision to postpone the levy proposal until next year,” Vanover said. “I hope you all know that we did not take that lightly. We know that there's going to be challenges and we know that there will be space crunches. You are going to have to be patient. You are going to have to be creative, but we know you will rise to the occasion. We hope you understand that we just felt that next year we have a better chance at being successful. So thank you for your understanding. We support you and all the challenges that you have ahead.”
Board member Lori Bogart said she has heard several people in the community were upset about the decision to delay the vote.
“I have heard some comments from some of my friends in my community who are disappointed that we are not going forward with the levy,” Bogart said. “And it is disappointing but hopefully we get it running the next time.”
Other items discussed during the board meeting included the announcement of Platte County High School's 2014 Homecoming, which is officially now scheduled for Oct. 10. The school board unanimously approved the calendar for the 2014-2015 school year.
Paxton Elementary School fifth grade teacher Stephanie Riechers was also recognized during the meeting for receiving her National Board Certification. Riechers received word that she had received the certification on Nov. 23. She said it was an honor because only 55 percent of those who pursue their National Board Certification obtain it their first year.
According to Platte County R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik, only two teachers in Platte County have achieved the National Board Certification.
“This is the highest level of certification that you can achieve,” Reik said. “Stephanie, we are very proud of you. You are living our values not only by challenging yourself in doing this but by obtaining and achieving this goal.”