Saturday, November 26, 2011

LIBERTY SCHOOLS TAX DEFEAT: May hold lessons for Columbia

Board members criticize Columbia's classroom trailers

COLUMBIA, 11/25/11 (Beat Byte) -- Two Liberty, Missouri school board members took a verbal swipe at Columbia's many public school classroom trailers -- aka "modular units" -- in an official statement about the Nov. 8 defeat of a Liberty Public Schools property tax increase to fund new school construction.

"Waiting two to three years to build another elementary school will not place the district in any danger of being overrun with modular units like Columbia, Missouri," said Liberty School Board members Carlin Walker and Mattie Ransom, who with fellow member Kim-Marie Graham opposed putting the levy on the November ballot.

Columbia Public Schools is proposing an April 2012 levy increase for similar purposes, and Liberty's defeat may hold some lessons for local district officials. Faced with issues similar to Columbia including
overcrowded schools and deep budget cuts -- $11.5 million so far -- Liberty is now considering cutting another $2 - $2.5 million; a smaller tax increase; a reduced project calendar; or a combination of strategies. They also plan to redraw elementary, middle and junior high boundary lines to spread out the school population, a move already underway in Columbia.

The Liberty School Board remains split on higher taxes. Three members oppose tax increases, opting for more budget cuts. Four members support higher taxes.

The superintendent and board members have found common ground in their opposition to classroom trailers, however. "Modulars are not an acceptable solution," Liberty superintendent Mike Brewer told the Liberty Tribune. "They aren't acceptable to patrons, nor are they a good use of taxpayer funding."

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