In the past two weeks I have received multiple communications from the Platte County R-3 School District on the upcoming $73 million bond proposal, a proposal they are apparently sure is going to pass, as the district already awarded a contract last month to start removing the timber in the building area behind the stadium.
What R-3 has not told me in the flyers and emails is that my taxes will end up going down if I do not vote for this. No mention that the donated land the new middle school will be on is only being donated for free if a high school, NOT a middle school, is up and running on it in the next 17 years. If no high school is built we the taxpayers get to pay FMV (Full Market Value) for the property. The district is not talking much about Pathfinder, one of the schools in the southern district where the new middle school will be. Pathfinder enrollment is down 72 students this year (over 10%). The R-3 district is down about 50 students overall, while several other area districts had increases K-12 grades. The opposite of what you have heard superintendent Reik saying in the papers or literature you have received.
They did not mention that the PCR-3 District is currently about $80 million in debt with half of that being lease purchase debt, some of the highest in the state. Debt that has a lower bond rating and is above and beyond the legal bonding limit. Other area schools average $795 dollars per student in lease purchase debt, R-3 has almost $10,000 dollars per student. More lease purchase debt than Smithville, Kearney, NKC, Grain Valley, Ray Pec, Blue Springs and Ex Springs put together.
If this bond issue passes the district will have debt of almost $35,000 dollars per student, more than any district I could find in the state of Missouri. $140 to $150 million in debt for a district with just over 4000 students. WOW.
Whether you are for or against the bond these are facts you are not being told and they seem kind of important as you decide how to vote. Shame on R-3 and its school board members for using our tax dollars to spoon feed us only the information they think we need to see and not telling us the whole story.
Why the urgency to get this passed in 2021 when there is a pandemic and students are not even using some of the buildings? Unlike what the district has told you, enrollment is down at R-3 by percentages more than any other district in the area K-12. What happens if it is down again next year? Kearney’s peak enrollment was five years ago with a decline since then. Smithville has fluctuated in the past four years with virtually no increase in enrollment and they had projected an 800 student increase. Is R-3 next? Considering what has happened in these other districts, why would you not wait at least one more year to see if enrollment declines again before going into debt another $73 million based on growth?
Here is why. The district needs to keep the bonding amount up or you might get used to having lower taxes so they have to keep coming up with projects to spend your $70 to $80 million in legal bonding capacity. It is easier to do that than to come back later and do a “tax increase” bond issue. Because “no tax increase” sounds so good.
In the past four years, R-3 has paid down debt at a rate of only $6 million per year. So if you need a new high school in the southern area of the district which would cost about $100+ million in the next 15 years how are you going to pay for it? The maximum the district can currently bond is about $80 million and that is going to be tied up in debt with the multiple phases of the new high school replacement so the only option would be more lease purchase debt and higher taxes (levy increase) to cover it. A levy increase will only require 51% voter approval to get approved, the bonds need 57%. So knowing this, what do you think they are planning on doing?
The capacity of the high school has now been conveniently increased by over 200 students to almost 1600 with no physical changes done to make you think a southern high school will never need to happen. The district reduced the building capacities before the last election to create the impression of overcrowding, now they are going the other direction because that is what is needed this time.
The district has said lease purchase financing was needed due to the growth of the district and that everything they do is due to “good financial management.” Currently R-3 is paying off lighting upgrades from 2011. These upgrades were then replaced before being paid off when the district borrowed another $4 million, now we would be getting rid of many of those upgrades if this bond passes. We would still be in debt for equipment not just replaced once but replaced twice.
After the last tax increase we were told the master plan was and always had been to make Paxton School part of the high school so we spent about half a million dollars converting it and throwing away money on the “individualized learning program” which no longer exists. Now it appears the “master plan” is out the window and we just need a new high school.
We voted to replace the unneeded mobile classrooms at the high school and Barry in 2015. The district kept them in place the past four years, using some for storage, at a cost of almost $120,000, they are just now being moved out. Does any of this sound like good financial management?
Grain Valley (one of several I could name) has quadrupled in size since 1991, is now larger than PCR-3 and has just $51 million in debt with zero lease purchase debt. Living within your means can be done, it is just at some point you have to stop and pay down your debt so you can start using your bonds to cover your building cost for things that are actually needed.
Does anything in this letter make you think this has been a well-run district or they are being transparent with information?
The documents to support this letter are on www.plattecountyr3facts.com.
Before the election I will send in one more letter to The Landmark and in this one I will let you know how many classroom seats you have paid for since the Platte City Middle School was built and how this compares to actual growth. I think you will find it interesting.
The R-3 district has thousands of emails and contact info for taxpayers in the district and they use it to manipulate the information you see. If the past tells us anything, right before the election a political PAC funded by vendors of the district who stand to gain financially from the bond passing will mail out flyers telling you anything to get this bond passed.
Start talking to your friends and neighbors NOW and look at the facts. If you want a new high school north while denying the students south of ever having one, it is your vote but make the decision based on factual information, not what is being mailed to you by the district.
A good website started up by parents at Barry and Pathfinder who do not support this bond issue is www.buildsouth.org. You should take a look at it and view their video.
Rural Platte County