By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
The Lee County School Board voted on Tuesday to put a bond request before voters on July 30. The amount the district would borrow would not exceed $13.5 million, and it would replace debt that comes off the books this year, meaning taxes would not increase if it is approved. Money would be used to build new classrooms and renovate existing buildings.
Daily Journal education reporter Chris Kieffer spoke with Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks about the upcoming bond vote.
Q: Why is there a need for Lee County Schools to issue new bonds?
A: We are overcrowded in many of our schools and in dire need of more classroom space. Also, we have several buildings that are old and not in as good of condition as we would like for them to be. We have the opportunity to address these needs without a tax increase. We often see older buildings costing more money to maintain which translates to more cost for taxpayers.
Q: This seemed to come together quickly. Can you explain the timing of Tuesday’s school board vote and the July 30 election?
A: We started analyzing the situation several months ago when we realized that a bond issue would be paid off this year. When we realized the opportunity at hand, it was almost too late to get everything done. To ask for a referendum/bond election is a lengthy process. In order to get this done so that tax rolls would not be affected, we had to move quickly to take advantage of the opportunity.
Q: How will the district determine how the money will be spent and how will it unveil those plans?
A: The district has been working with Rudd Robison at Pryor & Morrow Architectural Firm to determine true needs. From here, we begin holding public community meetings to ask parents and voters what they feel is important and for ideas on how to address some of these needs. Often times, very good ideas and solutions are offered at these meetings that no one else thought of.
We are going to get as much information as possible out to the community because we do not want to ask people to vote on an issue when they have not been given the opportunity to have input and receive feedback. Our desire is to be as transparent as we can be and to educate the voters on the bond issue as much as we can.