Mt’Neer Strong Proposition presented at public forum

By Kaleena Ricketts

 An artist’s rendering of what would potentially be the next early childhood development and administration building for the Mt. Vernon School District. The building is currently called the south campus building, and is located across the street from the Mt. Vernon Middle School. (Photo submitted)

On April 2, the Mt. Vernon School District is asking Mt. Vernon residents to vote yes on Propostion Mt’Neer Strong. It is the district’s belief that, if passed, the issue would create great opportunities for local students.
Proposition Mt’Neer Strong is a bond issue which will enable the district to borrow money, approximately $10 million, to address several issues the district is facing, including roof repairs at all facilities, electrical work, replacement of several HVAC units, replacement of windows and doors at multiple facilities, fire alarm systems at both the middle school and south campus— due to the fact that neither building currently has one—and an upgraded system is needed at the elementary school. Funds will also be allotted for a structural issue at the north end of the middle school campus that is causing the foundation to sink, resulting in multiple plumbing issues.
District leaders would also like to remove two structures from campuses that could pose a threat to student safety and no longer contribute to the education of Mt. Vernon students. One of those structures is the rock building, which is estimated to cost around $2 million to repair and that would be just to make it structurally sound.
Three of the district’s facilities, the elementary school, the middle school and the south campus, are each more than 45 years old, with the the oldest being the elementary school, built in the 1930’s and the most recent addition being added in 1999. Each campus is in need of multiple repairs and renovations, but the district has had to postpone this maintenance due to lack of funding and competing priorities.
Roof repairs are one of the main issues the district hopes to get taken care of if the issue is passed. Nearly all buildings within the district are in major need of roof maintenance and/or replacement.
 The elementary school is reported as being in need of immediate replacement on nearly its entire structure. Both the middle school and south campus are both described as having three years or less on their roofs, while the small silver lining is that the majority of the high school building, as well as the Intermediate School roofs, each have 10 years remaining.
Currently the district has a levy of $3.32 which has been the levy for the Mt. Vernon District since 1999. The operating levy is $2.75 and is the lowest allowable operating levy in Missouri by statute. The current debt service levy is $.57. This is the portion of the current levy used to pay back debt borrowed for capital projects through bond issues. Mt. Vernon currently ranks 44th out of 45 area school districts within the southwest portion of the state.
Mt. Vernon Superintendent Scott Cook, along with several board members, will hold two separate public forums in hopes to inform voters as much as possible on the bond issue, and what the outcome could mean for the district. Cook hopes to see several parent and guardian faces in the crowds, but he would also like to see residents who may not have children that attend any of the Mt. Vernon Schools.
It is Cook’s belief that even if a resident does not have a student in the district, they will still be informed and see the benefits.
“This school district is such an important part of this community, I think that’s what I would tell those without children attending school. So much of the property value and reputation of this community is tied up within this school district, so we would hope to keep our district strong, not just for the students we serve, but for the community we represent. We feel like our fate is tied in with our city. If we don’t have stable buildings, we can’t do our best job in educating them. We want a high quality learning environment for our students.”
If this bond is passed, Mt. Vernon residents can expect to see the following impact on their monthly tax expenses: A residential property appraised at a value of $100,000 can expect to pay an additional $4.99 each month; personal property valued at $20,000 can add $1.94; commercial property with a value of $500,000, will add $46.67 monthly. Agricultural property owners will also see an added expense. Agricultural property of 160 acres with a soil grade of 4, can see an increase of $2.27; soil grade 5, $1.15 and soil grade 6 can expect to pay $0.88 more each month.
One major project the school district would like to take on is an expansion of the early childhood education program.
“We know not many people can get excited over new electrical systems and new roofs, but we do hope they get excited over our plans for expanding the early education program. We want to start to prepare these kids to be successful students as early as we can. We’ve been slowly growing this program over the last 3-4 years and we’re simply out of space. Having this new renovated campus would mean more kids could benefit from the program. We also love the idea of getting to build connections with the young families in our area and creating a good impression. Of all the projects we hope to take on, we are possibly the most excited about the early childhood development program,” said Cook.
While the majority of the South Campus facility would be used for the early childhood classrooms, part of the building would also be used for administrative offices. Currently, space is being over utilized for administrators and the district would like to use some of the space to help give them a more appropriate work environment.
A bond issue such as this will require 57 percent of voter approval and the district is hopeful. Superintendent Cook is hoping the facts and statistics speak for themselves and the voters allow it to pass.
The first public forum was held at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 5. The next slated meeting is Tuesday, March 19, at the Mt. Vernon Middle School. Everyone is encouraged to attend.
Information can also be found on the Mt. Vernon Schools website, Click on Proposition Mt’Neer Strong FAQ.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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