District to announce results of bond referendum

Jordan Huesers, Co-Editor

Facility Improvements: $167 million. Technology: $84 million. Safety: $20 million.
The Blue Valley Board of Education elected to propose a $271,285,031 bond to voters this January. If the bond passes, it will allow the district to maintain or enhance current levels of technology, facilities and safety for schools.
Every registered voter residing within the district’s boundaries received a ballot in the mail. The votes will be tabulated on Jan. 31, and the results should be known by 1 p.m. that day.
“What we find is that more people vote when the ballot is mailed to their home than when they have to be proactive and actually go to site or request a ballot,” Superintendent Dr. Tom Trigg said. “We feel like the democratic process, quite frankly, is best put to use when more people are involved and more people vote.”
Members of the board traveled to each of the school buildings and talked with principals and administrative teams to decide on the needs of each school. Then, they discussed HVAC upgrades, paving needs and carpeting upgrades with the district’s construction department and maintenance operations.
After that, board members decided the projects and the level of priority concerning each of those projects. Because of the certain taxing level the district does not want to exceed, some items did not make the list.
“Everybody wants their project done first,” Trigg said. “But if you think about it, this is a five-to-seven-year bond referendum. There are some projects that won’t happen until five years down the road, some maybe not until seven years down the road because what we want to do is treat the tax payers fairly. So, we want to sell these bonds incrementally over time, so that we don’t have one year where taxes spike dramatically. We do have a pretty strong equity theme here in the district.”
Trigg said the district would like to see more technology in the hands of students and continues to search for new ways to utilize technology.
“When you buy a desktop or a laptop from home, you can normally figure that the life cycle of that piece of hardware is going to be about four years,” Trigg said. “We have the same situation here in the school district. We buy all this technology for student use, and then, after about four years, it needs to be replaced. That money has to come from some place. So, in order to maintain our current levels of technology for students, I would say this is very, very important.”
In a world of increasing technology, Trigg said schools need to help prepare students for their futures.
“We really want to prepare kids, so when they go on to college and do whatever it is that they are going to do, that they just flow right into that university, and they don’t have any kind of technological divide,” Trigg said. “We want to keep up with the newest and the best, whether it is software, hardware, whatever, so that kids make that easy transition.”
Blue Valley parent Jackie Storm said Johnson County is ahead of the curve compared to other school districts considering technology and facilities.
“I think it is an important lesson that we don’t always need the best of the best,” she said. “And we need to learn to live within our means.”
The district aims to provide a safe environment for every student. With this bond, the district plans to add improvements such as safety railings for elementary schools and secure entry ways for older buildings.
Trigg said more of the bond money will go to the older facilities rather than newer ones like BV Southwest, Aubry Bend Middle School and Timber Creek Elementary. The district has a cycle for repaving parking lots and re-roofing buildings. Depending on where a specific school is in the cycle decides how early a project will be completed in the bond.
BVHS has had more additions than any other facility in the district, and the bond proposes a number of changes to the campus, including new home side bleachers and a new press box. The bleachers began to show structural defects resulting from natural wear and weather.
“That’s an aging stadium,” Trigg said. “That’s the oldest stadium that we have. Quite frankly, that press box up there, if you’ve been in it, not only is it small and not very functional — it’s safe — but it doesn’t come near meeting the standards needed in today’s media world. With games being televised now, games being put on the radio, newspaper folks, along with coaches’ boxes, it needs to be enlarged.”
The bond referendum in 2005 was projected to last until 2010. However, in 2010 and 2011 the board of education felt the time was not appropriate to raise taxes and asked administration to stretch the current bond.
“We are to the point now where everybody is in agreement we can’t do that any longer,” Trigg said. “We are virtually out of technology dollars. We are in a position where we really need to go out and ask the voters to do this, and they’ll tell us whether they agree or not.”
Storm said she will vote no in the bond referendum.
“With the way the economy is right now, where some people are just getting by, it is not an appropriate time for them to come out and ask for this,” she said.
Storm said she sees no direct correlation with the quality of education and the condition of the school facilities.
“I think the money they are asking for is too much,” she said. “We need some money for improvements that are absolutely necessary, like if a roof needs to be fixed, but I think just the way they are directing the funds is unnecessary.”
If the bond fails, the district will regroup and figure out why. The only time a district bond has failed was in 1982. Trigg said if the bond fails, the schools would take the biggest hit technologically.
“We would have to come up with some ways to make our current technology last longer, which, as you know, is very, very expensive,” he said. “It would more than likely put us in a position that we would have less technology available for student use.”
Trigg said the community supports each school in the district.
“We just happen to have people that value education in this community, and they seem to understand, and they seem to be willing to provide the tax dollars to pay for it,” he said. “We’ll have to see this time if that is the prevalent attitude.”