Pittsburg divided over USD 250 bond election
Pittsburg USD 250 voters are at odds when it comes to the district’s $67.6 million bond election. Tonight, the district hosts an information session to help answer any last minute questions voters may have before receiving their ballots in the mail.
Walking the halls of the middle school, many Pittsburg residents are looking to decide its fate. In the coming weeks, they will vote on whether or not to pass the bond. The money would remodel and add onto the high school, demolish and rebuild the old part of the middle school, and add storm shelters at each elementary school.
“We want it to be a community decision. We know that people are very passionate about the history of the old, it used to be the high school, so the old high school,” says Superintendent Destry Brown.
The issue has the city divided.
“It’s irreplaceable. It’s a landmark. If you look at the university they don’t tear buildings down just because they’re tired of them, they don’t see them as disposable. They will remodel them and reuse them whereas like I say, it’s been a 20 year agenda to tear that one down,” says Pittsburg resident Skip Urich.
Urich also says the bond would increase property taxes, posing a problem for home and business owners.
“Crawford County is the poorest county in the state. This is a tax that will affect people that own their house, people that rent, it will raise commercial taxes 17 percent and Kansas property taxes are already twice as high as Missouri and Oklahoma,” says Urich.
And because the architects have no renderings of the future middle school, he says voters don’t even know what they’re voting for.
But those in support of the bond say the focus needs to be on the students.
“For me it’s about the kids and not the building. I live in a historic home and I do appreciate the value of architecture and buildings but not when we’re trying to use them right now and I think the kids need to be safe, I think they need clean environments, no bats, and storm shelters,” says Pittsburg resident Laura Washburn.
The school board says that despite an increase in property taxes, it is what is best for the future.
“It’s right for investing in our kids. People talk about well we’re the poorest county in Kansas and that’s true. If we can’t improve the education and the skills of our kids and our public, how will that ever change,” asks Superintendent Brown.
School officials say they have no plan b if the bond doesn’t pass. If passed, homes priced at about $83,000 would pay about an extra $10 a month.
The USd 250 Board of Education requested that this special question election be conducted as a mail ballot election.
All voters registered in USD 250 will automatically be mailed a ballot to the address on their registration. If you aren’t registered to vote, you have until 4:30 on January 7 to do so. County Clerk Don Pyle says to contact the clerk’s office if you haven’t received a ballot by January 15th. Once you receive it, mark your ballot. Be sure to read the instructions on the back of the return envelope, sign it, and return it as soon as possible. Ballots need to reach the county clerk’s office by noon on January 28th. Pyle says the turnout for mail-in elections is generally higher.
“Talking to election officers from around the state, we’ve seen that we get better turnout, better voter participation from these mail ballot elections when it’s a single issue election like this,” says Pyle.
If you will be out of town and need to have your ballot mailed to another address contact the clerk’s office.