Since September, the Mid-Prairie Board of Education has held work sessions in which they have considered when next to put a bond issue in front of voters, if they should propose raising the tax levy, …
Since September, the Mid-Prairie Board of Education has held work sessions in which they have considered when next to put a bond issue in front of voters, if they should propose raising the tax levy, and what facilities improvements are most critical to the school district.
Round after round, they debated their options, trying to find a compromise position that voters would support that would also satisfy the needs of the district for improved parking and increased classroom space.
Two facts would not change: first, the need and demand for a new auditorium/theater is not going away, nor is it getting any less expensive to build. With a projected cost of about $13,330,000, the only way the district can afford it, along with other necessary improvements, is to raise the tax levy from $2.70 to $4.05.
Second, voters failed to approve an increase in levy when it appeared on the ballot in March of this year.
The debate came to a head Monday night during the work session, when board member Jake Snider suggested perhaps classroom space issues at West Elementary could be solved if West Elementary served pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade, and East Elementary were dedicated to second, third and fourth grades.
This raised the ire of Greg Jergens, principal of East Elementary.
“This plan makes no sense whatsoever, none,” he said.
“Just speaking as a parent in the district, I think we’re missing an important part here, a big one, which is the kids,” he continued. “I’d love you to sell the community that their kids don’t deserve nicer facilities right now, because they deserve nicer facilities right now. And you’ll never get more for your money than right now.”
“You’re literally losing space all the time,” Jergens continued. “That auditorium that was, what, $7 million a few years ago, is going to be about $25 million. You will never get it done, unless we make a plan to get it done. That’s the reality we’re missing here. If this is so important to the community, and those kids deserve it . . . Why don’t these kids deserve it? These kids are doing great work. That’s one of the biggest things that surprised me about coming to this district is how amazing we do with how little we have. That’s me being honest with you. I see it every day. And if you want to talk teacher retention, they deserve to walk into nice facilities too, because they can go someplace that just built a brand-new school and get paid the same amount of money.”
After a short interchange among board members, a consensus appeared to be reached.
“If you want to the things we’re looking to do, we have to go to $4.05,” said Board President Jeremy Pickard.
“That’s the only answer,” agreed Superintendent Brian Stone.
The board worked out a timeline, determining that putting the proposed tax levy increase on the ballot in September 2023 would be their best course of action. A facilities committee would be put together to work out a facilities plan to be acted on if the bill passes.
“We need to sell our kids deserve $4.05,” said High School Principal Chuck Banks. “We need to do something to make Mid-Prairie not just the best place to learn, but it’s got to look like it’s the best place to learn, too.”
“I think you just came up with our slogan,” Pickard said. “Our kids deserve $4.05.”
“It’s that simple,” agreed Jergens. “It really is.”