Gainesville tries again to get funding issues passed
The Gainesville R-5 School District will try again in April to get voter support for a funding request. After more than 20 years of turning down Gainesville school-funding proposals, voters in the April 2 election will be presented with two separate Gainesville school funding issues to consider.
The first will be a request to increase the school’s operating tax levy ceiling by 47 cents from the current $2.75 per $100 assessed valuation, the minimum operating levy allowed by state law, to $3.22. Funds generated by the levy increase would be used to fund capital improvements, including the renovation of the high school and junior high school, student lockers, HVAC, roof replacement, computer equipment, classroom furniture and other facility maintenance and improvement projects.
On the same April 2 ballot, Gainesville district voters will also be asked to approve the issuance of $1.9 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a new multipurpose gymnasium. General obligation bonds are secured on a 20-year pay-back schedule. In 20 years, the bond would have to be voted back in – or it could be allowed to expire, as voters decreed in the April 2010 election, when they turned down a proposal to renew a 28-cent debt service that was expiring. That renewal proposal was part of another request that also included a 62 cents levy increase. The proposal failed, and the next year the school’s operating levy fell to $2.75, the state minimum, where it has remained since then.
Approving the $1.9 bond issue in this April’s proposal would result in an estimated increase to the debt service property tax levy of 28 cents per $100 assessed valuation, bringing the total levy to $3.03. The district currently has no debt service levy.
If both proposals pass, the Gainesville district’s total tax levy would increase by a total of 75 cents per $100 valuation for a total of $3.50.
A proposal to increase the school’s operating levy by 75 cents failed by 14 votes (out of 1,394 votes cast) in the Aug. 7, 2018, election. The board put the proposal back on the ballot in the Nov. 6, 2018, election but graduated the 75-cent levy increase over three years and added a 25-year sunset clause. That proposal failed by 150 votes (out of 2,010 votes cast).
Gainesville superintendent Dr. Jeff Hyatt explained the board’s decision to put funding issues back on the April ballot. “The levy request is for overall district improvements that are so desperately needed,” he said.
In an email to the Times he provided these estimates for needed repairs and upgrades that would be funded by the levy increase:
Roof repair $980,000
Junior high, high school remodel $250,000
Security upgrades $100,000
Heating upgrades $100,000
Locker replacements $75,000
Computer upgrades $75,000
Parking lot repairs $50,000
Phone upgrades $30,000
Covered walkway $30,000
Referring to the proposed bond issue to replace the school’s outdated gymnasium, which is not handicap accessible, he said, “The gym is a question that is brought up constantly, and voters have a divided view. Here is the opportunity, and the voters can decide one way or another.”
The operating levy requires a simple majority vote for approval. The bond issue would require a four-sevenths (57.14 percent) majority for approval, Hyatt said.
New law requires candidate election
In addition to the Gainesville school’s funding proposals in the April 2 election, the names of candidates for the Gainesville school board will also appear on the ballot. Missouri law allows governing boards to skip elections when the number of candidates equals the number of terms coming open on those boards. Two Gainesville R-V board terms are expiring, those currently held by Heather Bushner and Robby Walrath. Both candidates have filed for re-election, and no other candidates have filed.
If the school district had no other issues on the ballot, no candidate election would be required. However, a recently passed Missouri statute requires a candidate election, regardless of the number of openings and candidates, when other issues, such as the proposed financial issues, are put before the voters. So Gainesville voters will see two names to be voted on for two vacancies on the school.
“It makes zero sense as to why we have to have them on a ballot due to the other issues,” Hyatt said.