Independence School District officials have laid out a sound case for a low-cost bond issue that goes to the voters next Tuesday.

Independence School District officials have laid out a sound case for a low-cost bond issue that goes to the voters next Tuesday.

Voters have a chance, with the $85 million proposal, to move the district forward. It takes a four-sevenths majority, 57.1 percent, for approval.

The plan would pay for two new elementary schools, one on the east side of the district and one on the west side. Other schools would get added space too. Most of the district’s schools have more kids than they were built for, and the added space is needed.

The district also would pay off millions of dollars worth of lease-purchase agreements in areas such as energy efficiency. That lowers operating costs and frees up money that Superintendent Jim Hinson has said could help avert layoffs next year.

Officials are trying to take advantage of a one-time opportunity. They can tap into federal stimulus money to issue no-interest bonds. How much they would get will depend on how many other districts in Missouri get voter approval to tap into the same program, but Independence officials have said they would get $10 million to $40 million. Times are tough, but these needs won’t go away, and it’s hard to beat interest-free financing.

The bond issue would raise taxes on a $200,000 home by about $57 a year. Overall, that’s a bargain.

District officials also deserve a great deal of credit for holding a very public process of seeking community comment before deciding to put this on the ballot. Officials have been quick to acknowledge that these are tough times and any added tax – even a small one like this – is a tough sell.

In this space, we’ve laid out a two-part test to judge the worthiness of any project using federal stimulus money: Does it create some jobs and therefore boost the economy? Does it create an investment for the community that will pay benefits for years to come? This proposal gets a clear yes to both questions.

This would create some jobs and save others. More importantly, a couple of new schools would add to the community’s forward momentum and its children would gain from it.