Thursday, Liberal City Commissioners and USD No. 480 School Board members started a discussion that will be important for all Liberal residents.
A $61-million bond proposal in 2009 did not get enough community support to pass.
Since then, six of the seven school board members have been replaced.
There have been two new superintendents.
And, the needs of the school district have continued to grow as Liberal adds more and more students.
The landscape has changed economically, as well.
When the bond failed in 2009, the community and the nation were embroiled in an economic crisis, and any spending measure seemed to be too much of a risk.
Since then, the City of Liberal recently reported that July’s sales tax collections were the highest in the history of the sales tax.
The economy is improving, and all indications are growth will be continual for many years to come.
That means additional pressure will be placed on the schools, and a solution to addressing those needs is currently being sought by the district.
So far, several meetings have taken place with DLR and community members to discuss what the future of education will be and how best to prepare Liberal’s facilities.
While the meetings are very early, district representatives have been open with a plan to allow voters to decide whether or not the entire plan should be funded as a mill levy increase or a split between a mill levy and a sales tax option.
A phone survey of registered voters clearly indicated that 85 percent would like to see a hybrid funding option.
During the recent election for city commission, Joe Denoyer, Ron Warren, Dave Harrison and Dean Aragon all agreed that the public should be able to vote on a possible sales tax to help fund school expansion.
It is only an option. The public still has final authority to approve or deny the plan.
There are two ways to get an issue on the ballot. The first is approval by the current commission. The second is by petition.
We are sure that one way or the other, the voters will get to have their say.
For now, the key is to discuss the issue and to try to find common ground between the district and the city.
Communities that have cooperation between their elected officials tend to have the most positive living environments and efficient use of tax dollars.
We encourage both sides to keep lines of communication open, and to keep the public informed as discussions progress.
With input from the community and our elected officials, we are confident that there will be a positive outcome that will prove to be beneficial, and cost effective, for all.
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