Platte County R-3 officials have brought back out the digital renderings of what a new elementary school would look like during an open forum on a proposed capital project fund tax levy set to go before voters in April of 2015.
The look of the building remains the same from when plans were made to build a new school before a similar 2012 ballot measure failed. With just more than 20 citizens in attendance Nov. 13 at Platte City Middle School, Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik continued to push studies that show the district’s projected growth and promote changes made the prior proposal designed to ease concerns over a potential increase in property taxes of between 38 and 52 cents per $100 of assessed valuation with a 20-year sunset clause to help fund the new building and other renovations.
The third and final scheduled open forum is set for Monday, Nov. 24 at Pathfinder Elementary — set to receive additions under the current plan.
“This is not going to take care of our growth for 20 years,” said Reik, who revealed that the increase was looking to come in between 40 and 45 cents as the district tries to finalize the project and eventually ballot language in time to file with the Platte County Board of Elections in January. “To take care of our growth for 20 years, I would have to propose a multi-million, if not a billion, dollar project, which you would not approve and you would be wise not to approve it.
“It’s not intended to take care of our growth for long term; it’s intended to take care of our growth for the next three to five years.”
The proposed new elementary school would be a two-story structure located at Fourth Street and Emmy Lane on district land known as the Duncan Property. It’s the same location from the previous proposal which failed in 2012.
Reik noted that the location is partially driven by potential cost with that corner area one of the least topographically challenged on the acreage.
A one-story building or larger project would require more movement of earth and increase money spent. Also, Platte City’s proposed extension of Kentucky Avenue from its current terminus to Fourth Street would provide the necessary traffic relief for the new building.
Capacity would be about 700 students and would allow for reorganization of the district’s current building setup, including the closing for Rising Star Elementary (a kindergarten only facility in Platte City) and the annexation of Paxton School into Platte County High School. Reik believes the changes would allow the district to continue its improvements to efficiencies, including a new transportation pattern, and better its position to avoid future tax increases as the growth management plan continues to play out.
Platte County saw a modest increase in assessed district evaluation this year, a welcome sign for a district with continued projected growth.
“It would be my hope that we would start to see organic growth in our tax base,” Reik said, “that is more reliable that will allow us to go back to the voters three to five years after these solutions are brought online and be able to ask you to fund a building project that will not require a tax increase.”
Many of the concerns voiced were similar to previous questions proposed to district officials.
However, Reik expanded on suggestions to use the current East Platte Elementary building and its corresponding land rather than put a new building in Platte City. East Platte closed in 1997 with two temporary tenants renting at least portions of the building before becoming vacant in recent years.
While the areas around East Platte should be built out with residential at some point, the current population demographics make the site a liability at this time, according to Reik.
“It may provide us with an opportunity in the future to develop on that property,” he said. “The problem with East Platte is it’s nowhere near population density right now, and it’s really not projected to be near population density for the foreseeable future.”
Officials also were not concerned about the potential size of Platte County High School with the proposed annexation of Paxton School. The modified building would allow for in the neighborhood of 1,400 students, still smaller than other metro high schools, but he did note the potential for a reworked setup to ease distance and time required for students during passing periods.