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Education

Voter Guide To Independence And Lee's Summit School Funding Questions

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Updated Wednesday, 9:21 a.m.:

According to the Jackson County Election Board's unofficial results for Tuesday's municipal election, Independence's levy increase passed with 64 percent approval and Lee's Summit's bond issue passed with nearly 80 percent approval.

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For residents of Independence and Lee's Summit, Missouri, Tuesday's municipal election is a big one. The Independence School District is asking voters to approve a tax levy increase to hire more teachers and reduce class sizes.

Meanwhile, Lee's Summit R-7 wants voters to approve a $40 million bond issue that would be used primarily to build a new facility for the district's Summit Technology Academy and Missouri Innovation Campus. 

Here's a look at both issues:

Independence

The ISD's current levy tax is $4.43 per $100 of assessed property value. Tuesday's ballot question would raise that amount to $4.67. 

Superintendent Dale Herl says the money will mostly go towards hiring 25 to 35 new teachers to lower class sizes, particularly for elementary schools. 

"With the amount of kids we're seeing enroll in our district, it would've been very hard to stretch this any further," Herl said. "The number one question we get whenever I've went out and spoken with different groups in our community is, 'Why didn't you ask for more?'"

Groups of concerned community members, parents and even some teachers met Saturday to canvass in neighborhoods across Independence. Amy Knipp has a son in high school, and said supporting the levy increase is a no-brainer for her.

"It's your schools, of course you do it," Knipp said. "They're not asking for the moon, they kept [the levy] very conservative and that makes a huge difference with people, I think."

The levy increase would also provide funding for roofing and HVAC maintenance and technology upgrades for district Career Academy classrooms. There hasn't been organized opposition to the levy increase, and district officials said they're optimistic it will pass.

Lee's Summit

Lee's Summit's R-7 hopes to use $40 million in bond issue funds to build a new facility for their Summit Technology Academy and Missouri Innovation Campus. 

The University of Central Missouri has agree to pay for 60 percent of the cost, while still giving the district ownership over the proposed building. 

Lee's Summit School Board Vice President Terri Harmon says that by issuing the bond, the district could reinvest $9 million in funds that would've gone towards releasing the current building that houses the two higher-education focused programs. 

"Moving into a building that we own will help us transfer funds out of the general fund into an ownership fund," Harmon said. "That would give us more money in our normal annual budgets to pay for curriculum and student activities."

The bond would also go towards maintenance and capital improvement projects throughout the district. Like Independence's levy increase, this question hasn't been formally opposed by any organized groups, but it will require 57 percent approval from voters to pass. 

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