Shawnee Mission $223 million bond issue will be on mail-in ballot in January

The district’s high schools will be part of the future security upgrades to be paid for by the $223 million bond issue that needs voter approval.

The mail ballot election asking approval for both a new $223 million bond issue for the Shawnee Mission School District and to keep the district’s local option budget at 33 percent will be held in January.

The school board Monday formally approved putting the two measures before the voters, and Superintendent Jim Hinson said the election will be conducted in January with an anticipated deadline of noon on Jan. 27 for return of the ballots. Those ballots will be mailed to voters approximately 20 days before the return date.

Two questions will be on the ballot. One will ask if voters approve of the $223 million bond issue that would pay for a long list of capital projects that will touch every school in the district. Hinson outlined the list of improvements at the last meeting. The list includes ongoing security upgrades at all of the district schools and continuing implementation of its technology rollout. The bonds will not require a tax increase.

Another investment in the bond issue is a new aquatic center that is tentatively set to be built on the SM South campus. Hinson said Monday that the complex also will contain a wellness center for employees and students, but will not be open for broad public use. Elementary students in second and third grades will have access to swimming lessons at the aquatic center. The wellness facility could contain exercise equipment and a kitchen to teach healthy eating options.

The district is in negotiations to have the aquatic center operated by a third party so operating costs would not be a financial burden on the district. The operator could rent the aquatic center for meets to realize income.

The authority to increase the local option budget from 30 percent to 33 percent requires voter approval by a mail ballot after the first year. The higher amount expires for the district next June 30 without voter approval for a continuation. The higher rate meant approximately $4 million more for the district in this fiscal year. Since the mail ballot already was necessary for the LOB question, the bond issue was added to that ballot rather than hold a second election.