The state arbitration board is again urging the Kansas City and Independence school superintendents to work out their differences.
A decision regarding the property dispute between the Independence and Kansas City school districts might be made in the next few weeks.
The three-member Board of Arbitration met Friday morning via conference call at Union Station to discuss the ongoing transition of seven schools from the Kansas City School District to the Independence School District. The transition is supposed to occur June 30, but the two districts are still at odds over several issues, namely how much the seven buildings are worth.
The schools are Van Horn High School, Nowlin Middle School and Three Trails, Sugar Creek, Mount Washington, North Rock Creek/Korte and Fairmount elementary schools.
This is the second time the Board of Arbitration has met. The first time was April 24. Both school districts were given the opportunity to present evidence as well as their arguments as to how much they think the property as a whole is worth. The Independence district says the buildings are worth an estimated $5 million; Kansas City puts the value at more than $40 million.
At that time, the Board of Arbitration asked the two superintendents – John Martin of Kansas City and Jim Hinson of – to work the issue out. They met but did not reach an agreement.
The arbitration board’s opinion has not changed.
“We want to do the right thing for the children in both school districts, but this is a difficult decision. One that is not easy,” said Dan Colgan, chairman of the board. “My belief is that if the two superintendents can work this out, the decision that they make will be much more favorable to each of the school districts. Politically, that might not be practical, but it is in the best interest of the children. Their decision would be healthier for all.”
Although the board did not make any decision Friday, it did take care of several business items. These included:
n Rejecting a request from the Independence School District to consider appraisals that Kansas City had completed but did not submit to the Board of Arbitration in April. Kansas City officials said they did not have to turn over the appraisals because they were not part of the original presentation.
The board said that in the interest of fairness, no material submitted after the original April 30 deadline will be considered in its decision.
n Dividing the remaining work to be done into three categories: looking at the lease/purchase agreement with the School District of Kansas City Building Corporation; determining what the buildings are worth; and devising a way to divide fund balances. Each board member will take the next two weeks to look at one of the three areas and then submit a draft recommendation to attorney Mark VanZandt.
The board did agree that the Independence School District will be allowed to submit additional information in regard to the value of personal property including desks, computers and other equipment. Independence has until June 6 to make these submissions.
The final piece of discussion involved the Portageville vs. New Madrid case. From the beginning, the Independence School District has said that case puts legal precedents on its side and those procedents should prevail in the property dispute. In the Portageville case, the state placed no value on the property. Property was simply transferred from one district to another.
However, members of the Board of Arbitration agreed Friday that although there are similarities between the cases, their decision must be based on the available information in regard to this case, not previous decisions.
“If we follow the previous case, the Independence district will be happy and Kansas City will not. If we do not follow the case, then Kansas City will be happy and Independence will not,” Colgan said. “We can’t get around that, so we have to make this decision based on all of the facts of this case. We need to base our decision on the information received, not by the decision made by a previous board of arbitration.”
No date for the next meeting has been scheduled, but board members expressed interest in meeting toward the end of June, prior to the June 30 deadline set by Kansas City and Independence last fall. A decision could be made at that time in regard to the property dispute.
Attorneys from both Independence and Kansas City were present. Both refused to comment. A telephone message for Hinson was not returned.