R-3 School District opts to wait until 2015 to ask voters for tax levy increase

"My heart tells me to take care of our kids right now. My gut tells me we are running the risk of being unsuccessful in 2014. I feel more optimistic about 2015," Dr. Mike Reik. The Platte County R-3 School District’s Board of Education knows it needs more classroom space to accommodate an ever-growing student population. But the Board also knows that it needs public support for a tax levy increase that is needed to fund any new classroom construction.

The District did not get that support in 2012 when its first attempt at a levy increase was voted down. At a special meeting Tuesday night at Central Office in Platte City, the Board decided there still was not enough of that public support to pass a reworked tax levy increase proposal — at least not now. After much discussion, the Board decided to forego placing the issue before voters in April and will instead target placing the issue on the April 2015 ballot. R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said “in a perfect world” the District would place the issue with confidence on the April 2014 ballot. But he told the Board he did not think the time was right. “No reasonable person can look at the facts and suggest that doing nothing, ever, is a viable option,” Reik said. “But with the state of the economy and what I would consider lean support for the issue, we may be better off waiting until 2015. Hopefully, we will see a better economy and people will start feeling better about the future.” He said that a second failure in April could set the District back another two or three years and the only hesitation he had about suggesting the Board wait was that construction costs would almost certainly be higher if they waited. Reik also said that the District had already made plans to address issues in some buildings that are near, at or surpassing capacity for the 2014-15 school year. He said such solutions include elimination of fixed computer lab classrooms and rotations of students that allow for more usage of available gym space. “This isn’t about a shiny new building or victories at the polls,” Reik said. “It’s about taking care of our kids the best we can and we will continue to do that regardless.” Several Board members voiced their concerns — both for placing the issue on the ballot in April or waiting until 2015. Adam McGinness said the current public climate was uncertain. “It seems like we are looking at a very sensitive taxpayer base right now,” he said. “It seems like everybody is on edge and not just about school funding.” Gary Brown said everyone wanted to do what’s best for R-3 students right now, but acknowledged the timing of the issue. “The best scenario is closing our eyes and doing what’s best for our kids and that would be to do this as soon as we can,” he said. “But maybe that’s not the way to go right now.” Lenora Miles asked about the status of Rising Star elementary, the 61-year-old building District officials say needs significant financial attention to keep it functioning to modern standards and regulations.