The Emporia school district says “the state” will contribute $53 million toward bond and interest payments of its proposed bond issue. The subtle distinction is that “the state” is merely a conduit; taxpayers all around the state will pick up the $53 million tab.
So, while only Emporia residents get to vote on the school bond proposal, every Kansan has a stake in the election because they’ll be paying part of the cost if it passes. They aren’t ‘foreigners’ as The Emporia Gazette recently said; they are Kansans.
Emporia residents will pay the majority of the cost in higher property taxes and their proportional share of ‘the state’ contribution, so it’s imperative that they have all the facts to make an informed decision.
The Gazette didn’t report that taxpayers will get a property tax reduction of about 9 mills in two years if voters don’t approve this bond issue or approve more debt in the meanwhile; they also didn’t report that the bond issue will cost $140 million including interest. To be clear, The Gazette doesn’t say Kansas Policy Institute or our media subsidiary, The Sentinel, is wrong on those facts; they’re just oddly indignant that we’re telling the truth. One must wonder what former Gazette editor, William Allen White, would think about their effort to suppress free speech.
The desire to improve facilities is understandable, and everyone wants students to be safe. But citizens also have a heavy tax burden and can’t lose sight of the greatest education challenge — a student achievement crisis. The 2018 state assessment results show 57 percent of Emporia 10th-grade students are below grade-level in math, and just 15 percent are on track for college and career. USD 253 spent $14,784 per-student in 2018, so taxpayers are already providing a lot of funding.
Kansas Policy Institute isn’t taking a position on what voters should do. Every resident should look at all the information and make their own decision on how best to allocate funding to improve student achievement. We’re just providing facts and answering questions, because information is sometimes hard to come by, and transparency in government is essential.