Wright City School District asks voters for bond for new high school

Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 1/3/22

Voters will be posed with a pair of no-tax-increase ballot issues concerning the building of a new high school in the Wright City R-II School District during the April 2022 election.

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Wright City School District asks voters for bond for new high school

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Voters will be posed with a pair of no-tax-increase ballot issues concerning the building of a new high school in the Wright City R-II School District during the April 2022 election.

School board members voted during their monthly meeting on Dec. 16 to let voters choose between two options for building the school. One option is more limited in scope and financially conservative, while the other plan is more expansive and would cost more.

Those ballot initiatives will be termed Prop 1967 and Prop 2025. Both are directed at the construction of a new high school on land previously purchased by the district along Highway F. The primary difference in the ballot issues is the amount of money allocated, the source of the funding and what the funding can be spent on.

“What propelled that was we had a $37 million bond issue that was going to be a no-tax-increase,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger. “The core project was going to be a new high school with just the academic housing, because for $37 million, that’s about all you can get any longer.”

Berger said the community expressed an interest in an expanded project that would go beyond just the academic spaces, including also athletic and performance areas.

“We had folks that were wanting more in the project,” said Berger. “We went back to Stifel, who’s doing the financial management of the bond issue, and asked if we could include more and not bring a tax increase to the public.”

Stifel proposed a financial move called a tax transfer, which would allow the moving and reallocation of other school district funding to provide for another $15 million to expand the project without imposing a tax increase.

“We have a debt out on East Elementary,” said Berger. “That debt is coming close to an end, so we can extend that debt out for the first issue, which is Prop 1967.”

For the more expansive plan of Prop 2025, Berger said growing property values in the school district are providing increased funding, part of which can be redirected to building the new high school with voter approval.

Berger said the school board decided to go with two options as a result of voter support during a district phone survey to 300 patrons earlier in the fall. Prop 1967 received 75 percent approval, while Prop 2025 yielded 69 percent approval.

“Prop 1967 essentially takes care of the academic housing at the new high school,” said Berger. “Prop 2025 allows us to get deeper into the master plan, which includes performance stadiums.”

Berger said the exact details of what gets included in the project will be dictated by the bids returned to the district by contractors.

“We can’t specify exactly how much we can get into the master plan,” said Berger. “If bids come back low, we can hopefully get everything in, and if bids come back high, we could be looking at just one or two items.”

He notes that the key takeaway is that if either or both ballot issues pass, the community would not be looking at a tax increase. The district’s debt service tax levy is estimated to remain unchanged at $1.20 per $100 of assessed valuation on real estate and personal property.

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