In 2006, the Independence School District decided to make its buildings more energy efficient by replacing out-of-date heating and air-conditioning systems, plumbing fixtures, windows and even lighting fixtures.

In 2006, the Independence School District decided to make its buildings more energy efficient by replacing out-of-date heating and air-conditioning systems, plumbing fixtures, windows and even lighting fixtures.
The idea was to not only go more “green,” but to also save money when utility costs where rising on an annual basis.
To fund these projects, the district entered into lease purchase agreements. Superintendent Jim Hinson said the savings in utilities is what is used to make the yearly lease purchase payment.
However, if a portion of the $85 million bond issue on the Nov. 3 ballot is used to pay off the $24 million remaining in lease purchases, millions could be saved each year. Money that could be used to save teaching positions in the 2010-11 school year.
“Paying off those lease purchases will save approximately $2 million from the school district’s annual operating fund,” deputy superintendent Dred Scott said. “This money, in part, will help to protect teaching positions and the overall quality of education.”
A portion of the bond issue would be in the form zero-percent interest bonds. This one-time offer for capital projects is available through the federal economic stimulus package. The reason – construction projects mean jobs and jobs, especially in the construction field, are dwindling because of the economy.
The Independence School District estimates that between 1,200 and 1,500 would be created through the bond issue.
It is unknown how much in interest free bonds the district would receive, but Hinson said it could be anywhere from $10 million to $40 million. The amount depends on how many other school districts successfully pass bond issues before the end of the year.
“This is a one-time opportunity for zero interest bonds,” Hinson said. “If these were not available then we would not be going for a bond issue in November. But the facility needs would still be there. We felt this was significant enough of an issue to go to the people and ask what they wanted us to do.”
No matter how much of the bond is interest free, taxpayers in Independence would benefit. For example, if the district received $10 million interest free, that would mean an interest savings of $5.5 million. For $20 million, the savings in interest would be $12 million and for $30 million, the savings would be $18 million.
More savings in interest means the bond is paid sooner, and, therefore, normal taxpayer revenue could be applied to educational needs rather than interest payments.
Even with the zero interest bonds, a 15-cent tax increase per $100 of assessed valuation is tied to the $85 million bond issue. According the district, for a $100,000 home, this would mean an additional $28.56 annually, and for those with a $200,000 home, it would be an additional $57.12 each year. Unlike a levy increase, an increase tied to a bond issue would expire once the bond is paid in full – usually between 10 and 20 years, depending on the terms of the bond.
Hinson said despite the economic downturn, he is hearing favorable reaction and comments to the bond issue, even with the tax increase. He said because of the work the district did over the summer to gauge public opinion of such an issue, he said he feels the community has really taken “ownership” in the election.
“They were part of the decision-making process, so I think they really have a stake in this,” he said. “The response has been very positive. We are continuing to try to reach out to a lot of different people to really get the information out there, and hope they understand the issue. Now, it is in the hands of the voters. People need to get and vote.”
For more information on the Independence School District bond issue, visit the district’s Web site at www.indep.k12.mo.us and choose the “2009 bond issue” tab.