School districts want to see the Missouri Legislature discuss a resolution increasing a district's bonding capacity from 15 to 20 percent.
Grain Valley Superintendent Chris Small is eager for the Missouri General Assembly to discuss increasing how much a school district can borrow to complete projects such as renovations or construction.
“For us, it would mean we would be able to build a school in one phase, instead of multiple phases,” he said. “It is important for that bonding capacity to increase, especially for districts like us that are growing so fast.”
Currently, under the Missouri Constitution, a school district can borrow up to 15 percent of its total assessed valuation, minus debt incurred. Bond funds can only be used for “bricks and mortar” such as renovating buildings and are paid back through a tax levy.
What Small and many other school districts are requesting is that the bonding capacity be increased to 20 percent. The last increase was made in 1998, increasing a district’s bonding capacity from 10 to the current 15 percent.
“That 5 percent increase would be compounded, allowing us to pay off debt quicker and borrow more effectively,” he said. “Instead of the $5.9 million we are asking for in this current bond issue, we would be able to ask for maybe $15 million.”
One way to change the state constitution is for the legislature to place a question on a statewide ballot.
State Rep. Chris Molendorp, R-Belton, is sponsoring a bill calling for a constitutional amendment “raising the allowable level of bonded ineptness for school districts.” No hearing, however, has been scheduled for HJR 6 and it is currently not on the legislative calendar.
“This is a proposal that has been talked about in Jefferson City for at least the last three years,” said Rep. Paul LeVota, D-Independence. “It has run into issues because I believe a lot of people see this as a tax increase. But to me, it allows for local school districts to go to voters and decide what is best for them.”
Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, said he is in support of such a resolution and believes it has “a good shot” this year.
“I like to push items like this that allow the decision to be made by the local community,” he said. “That is what this does, it requires a vote of the taxpayers of the state and ultimately requires a vote of the local school districts themselves.”