By KEVIN LYON
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Voting begins today on a Warrensburg bond and levy issues to raise millions of dollars for the R-6 School District.
While the group Citizens in Support of Warrensburg R-6 Schools has raised $2,560 to support the two ballot issues, one entity that opposes the issues has spent an undisclosed amount of money on yard signs opposing the measures.
The first ballot issue is a 12-cent increase in the district’s debt service levy, allowing the district to issue up to $16.8 million in general obligation bonds. The money would be used to build a new entrance and 800-seat performing arts center at Warrensburg High School. The $10 million to $12 million 30,000-square-foot project would also improve classroom and laboratory space.
The district would also add three new classrooms and office area to Warrensburg Middle School and upgrade and make improvements to the athletic stadium between the middle school and Sterling Elementary.
If approved, the debt service levy would increase from 72 cents to 84 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property.
The second ballot issue is an 88-cent operating levy increase. These funds would help hire two new Warrensburg Police officers to bring the district’s total to three school resource officers. The operating levy increase would also fund technology upgrades, install a district-wide Wi-Fi system and increase salary for staff members.
If approved, the operating levy would increase from $3.717 to $4.597 per $100 of assessed valuation. If both measures pass, the district’s total levy would be $5.437 per $100 of assessed valuation.
The operating levy increase will help close a state funding gap and raise teacher salaries.
“We’ve (been) deficit spending over the last three or four years,” said Dale Carder, co-chair of Citizens in Support of Warrensburg R-6 Schools. “If this levy fails, the board will probably immediately go into session and we’ll see cuts to faculty and staff.”
Citizens in Support of Warrensburg R-6 School District raised $2,560 through donations from 33 local citizens, many of them affiliated with the district or with the University of Central Missouri. The largest single donation was for $300, according to campaign disclosure forms.
“We’ve done some advertising, some mailing and some brochures,” Carder said. “But we’ve been pretty frugal with it.”
The ballot issues also have opposition. John McEwan, a retired veteran and special education teacher, has purchased newspaper advertising to oppose the issues.
“If I feel strongly about an issue,” McEwan said. “I circumvent the games and I just buy space in the paper.”
McEwan attended both of the public meetings that the district held about the issue and said he went away unconvinced.
“The issues at hand are not about Warrensburg children; they are about significant pay raises and grandiose dreams about new structures,” according to his advertisement.
“I can’t see the rank and file out here working at Swisher’s or Enersys chipping in to give them more money,” McEwan said. “If I had kids in the district, and they wanted to do performing arts, I should pay myself. Pay as you go.”
The ad is the only thing that McEwan said he has spent any money on for this election.
Another campaign against the initiatives came in the form of bright red and white signs that state “Vote No Tues. April 8” and asks Warrensburg voters to know the facts before they vote. The signs do not include a disclosure notice on the bottom that reveal who paid for them, which is required by Missouri law.
It is unclear who is responsible for these signs.
Brenda Collins, who works at the West Central Baptist Association at 602 N. Holden St., said the sign just appeared over the last week on their property.
“I don’t know who put it up,” Collins said, “but we aren’t really affiliated with that at all.”
Citizens in Support of Warrensburg R-6 Schools filed a grievance with the Missouri Ethics Commission about the signs. James Klahr, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said they cannot disclose information about grievances until they review the complaints.
“Look, in this day and age no one wants to vote for new taxes,” said Rick Miller, an R-6 Board of Education member. “I understand people will vote no, but sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and do what’s best for everyone involved, including the young people.”