Voters to decide on $130 million for Jefferson City Public Schools

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JEFFERSON CITY – On April 4, Cole County voters will see two propositions on the ballot designed to improve Jefferson City schools using tax levy increases.

Superintendent of Jefferson City Public Schools Dr. Larry Linthacum said, “We need to raise the bar. Being okay is not okay.”

Proposition J is a bond measure that would amount to a 65 cent tax levy increase, while proposition C would increase the levy by another 45 cents. The current tax levy is $3.69 for every $100 of assessed valuation, based on real and personal property.

Proposition J asks voters to approve $130 million in spending for Jefferson City Public Schools. Linthacum said the money would be used to build a new high school and renovate and expand Jefferson City High School, which is currently the only public high school in Jefferson City.

Proposition C would provide funds for the operation of the proposed second high school. It would also allow for additional instructional resources for students and teachers in grades K-12. Those resources may include textbooks, more technology devices, more behavioral and mental health support and a preschool classroom at Callaway Hills elementary.

Linthacum said such resources are needed, since textbooks have not been purchased in 10 years and behavior has been an issue in Jefferson City Public Schools.

Linthacum said building a new school and renovating the old one is needed to make sure the education system is not made up of “haves and have nots.” He said not one part of the old high school will go untouched with renovation.

The director of school community relations, Amy Berendzen, said the goal is to get both propositions passed. She said having just one without the other would be problematic.

The levy plan would allow JCPS to build equity to borrow money every few years to address additional space needs at the elementary and middle schools.

School board member Steve Bruce said, “It’s really like taking out a home equity line of credit.”

Bruce said he said he is voting yes because the measures will allow teachers and students to have a better learning environment.

Linthacum said, right now, Jefferson City High School is overflowing into the Nichols Career Center. It is 44 students over capacity. Simonsen, the center for 9th grade students, is 45 students over capacity. He said the district believes enrollment will continue to increase.

Opponents of the propositions question the necessity of a tax increase and argue the spending plan has not been clearly thought out.