The machine counting votes in the Seven Bridges precinct malfunctioned on election day, delaying results Tuesday, April 7.The Platte County R-3’s tax levy proposal led by just two votes with only the ballots from one of the largest voting populations in the district’s boundaries left to count. The totals from Seven Bridges revealed an overwhelming victory and sets in motion a $29-million plan to help handle continued the growth management challenges in R-3’s buildings. The final totals in Platte County were 2,037 votes for the $0.43 per $100 of assessed-valuation increase and 1,685 against — a margin of about 55-45 percent.
“I wasn’t going to let myself celebrate, but I knew we were going to win Seven Bridges,” Platte County superintendent Mike Reik said of awaiting results from his home.
The campaign on the issue reached fervent levels on both sides, a change from a similar failed proposal in 2012 when organized opposition helped defeat the measure with 56 percent against.
The increase brings Platte County’s total tax levy to $5.0289 per $100 of assessed valuation. The cost to the owner of a $100,000 home at fair market price would pay an additional $82 per year. Homes are assessed at a value lower than what it would expect to sell for on the open market.
Among school districts in Platte, Clay and Jackson counties, only North Platte, West Platte and Smithville have a lower tax levy than Platte County.
The increased revenue will fund extensive construction projects in both the north and south ends of the district, aimed at increasing classroom space.
Platte County now plans to close Rising Star Elementary (a kindergarten-only facility in Platte City), annex Paxton School to become part of the high school, renovate and add on to Pathfinder Elementary and build a second elementary school in Platte City, which will be located off of Fourth Street with eventual access to Kentucky Avenue. Siegrist Elementary would be converted from serving first through third grades to K-5, the same configuration as the new elementary building.
The organized opposition questioned the size of the project, while the district maintained that growth trends showed capacity issues would only worsen.
As opposed to the failed 2012 levy, this proposal called for funding on buildings only — “a bricks and mortar approach,” as Reik often referred to it — and did not seek additional taxation for operating costs. The district believes that a sudden increase, although only slightly, in the property value in the district and increased efficiency can offset those costs.
There is also a 20-year sunset clause on the levy, which could be renewed in the future but only with voter approval.
Reik praised the support from the community and believes the district’s pro-active approach helped this campaign, unlike in 2012 when the organized opposition caught officials by surprise. They attempted to engage voters early this time around to help dispel concerns that continued to resurface.
“We were very focused on getting the vote out,” Reik said. “We knew we had support in 2012 but our voters had become accustomed to low voter turnout and high success in tax increases.
“We knew if we had a good field plan, we’d get the vote out, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Reik said the district hopes to finalize bid documents in the next month in an attempt to take advantage of the current construction costs and low interest rates, another selling point from district officials in attempting to be efficient with taxpayer dollars.
Other future tasks include mapping out new boundary lines for the two Platte City elementary schools. A committee including citizens will be formed to determine that alignment. Officials will also have to make a decision on whether to sell Rising Star and/or the land it currently resides on off of Second Street.
Those decisions will be able to wait, and construction will likely start as soon as possible with the projects hoped to be completed to have all buildings ready for occupancy for the 2016-2017 school year.
“What’s next? We start building some more space for our kids,” Reik said.