Washington School District

The Citizens for Great Schools committee said it’s working on all fronts to promote passage of the Washington School District’s $26 million zero tax-rate increase bond issue that will be on the April 2 ballot.

The bond issue will allow the district to build a new elementary school in the South Point attendance area and make safety upgrades districtwide.

“We are doing our best to get the word out through social media, direct mail to registered voters, advertising in the newspaper and distributing signs throughout the district,” said Stephen Trentmann, one of the committee chairs.

The other chairs are Brad Mitchell and Lauren Storie, who said feedback from the public has been very positive.

“We are receiving great support from the community,” she said. “There has been lots of positive engagement, which has provided the opportunity to communicate the importance of Prop S and why it’s needed now more than ever.

“I have had some ask why there is such a big effort to campaign for Prop S since it’s a zero-tax increase bond issue,” Storie added. “The answer to me is simple — because we can’t let it fail. It is too important of an issue to take any risk that it wouldn’t pass. It is an opportunity to bring much needed safety upgrades, ADA improvements, as well as to finally fix the critical building situation at South Point.”

If the bond issue passes, the new school would open in August 2021.

The Citizens for Great Schools committee’s Facebook page features information on the bond issue, endorsements, voter registration and videos of community leaders, parents and students discussing the importance of the bond issue and what it will mean for the public school system and community.

The bond issue has been endorsed by numerous groups, including the Washington 353 Redevelopment Corporation, St. Louis/Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, Washington Civic Industrial Corporation, MSTA Washington Teachers Association, Downtown Washington Inc., Washington Jaycees, Washington Area Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of Washington, Washington Town & Country Fair Board and Rotary Club of Washington.

The South Point, Augusta, Labadie, Clearview, Campbellton, Washington West and Marthasville elementary parent-teacher groups, along with WINGS, the district’s educational foundation, also have endorsed the measure.

The chairmen say Prop S is designed to improve safety and the school environment for students.

In addition to building a new elementary school, the funds will be used to construct secure vestibule entryways at all schools, purchase visitor management systems and make ADA accessibility improvements.

“The students and staff at all buildings deserve the most productive surroundings, to do their jobs to the best of their ability,” Trentmann said. “We, the public, should support the district in all efforts, to enhance the safety and learning environment, equal to our surrounding communities.”

Storie noted the problems at South Point School go beyond the aging boiler systems, wall cracks and the lack of central air.

“The soil issues persist and the building is in a flood plain,” she noted. “Passing Prop S on April 2 will finally provide the solution for South Point — a building that engineers recommended being retired years ago. Being able to accomplish all of this with a zero tax-rate increase bond issue is a remarkable opportunity.”

The chairmen noted the district’s long-range plan has been to replace South Point School, but past bond issues to do so have failed.

“Each of us takes pride in our community and rightfully so as there is lots to be proud of, including the new  Missouri River bridge, new riverfront/downtown development, our shopping centers, the hospital, industrial parks, and the list can go on and on,” said Mitchell. “I know we are all proud of our school district and the education that takes place each and every day.

“Let’s show our students, teachers and future citizens to the Washington School District how proud we are of our schools by voting yes on S, April 2.”

Mitchell said the effort that has been put forth by the committee to educate, promote and fundraiser for Prop S has been phenomenal.

“There is no doubt in my mind that if the voters that show up on April 2 have the same enthusiasm and love for the Washington School District as does the Citizens For Great Schools Committee the Prop S will pass with ease,” he said.

School officials have said the district is in the position for a zero tax-rate increase bond issue because it has been paying off bond debt over time, refinancing bond debt and building a one-year reasonable reserve which offsets the need to increase the tax levy.

School officials also have noted that property values have improved along with maintained assessed valuation, and interest rates are still low, which is favorable to pursue new construction.

The district’s levy is currently set at 47 cents and is estimated to remain unchanged if Prop S passes.

Of the seven elementary schools in the district, South Point is the second largest. Washington West Elementary is the largest.

Prop S will require a four-sevenths majority (57.14 percent) to pass.