Citizens sign protest petition to stop lease-purchase of new stadium
One major factor drove Richard Campbell's decision to circulate a protest petition on USD 491's plan to lease-purchase a new stadium.
Whether for or against it, Campbell said citizens should have a right to vote on the $2.5 million project.
Apparently more than 100 people agreed with him.
"I just felt like the taxpayers should vote on things like that," Campbell said.
When the protest petition became official Friday, it forced the Eudora school board to make a decision.
One option will put the resolution to a mandatory referendum in the next six weeks.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said the board's other option would be a complete rescinding of the resolution.
"It cannot go into implementation without an election," Shew said.
Campbell and the other signers of the petition gained the mandatory 5 percent of the voting population in the last presidential election with a total of 128 signatures.
Shew said his office verified 110 of the signatures.
"We get inquiries about a petition once a month, but those are just questions, because when an entity makes a decision, people want to know how to protest," Shew said.
Superintendent Marty Kobza said he found the news of the petition disappointing.
"I think it's unfortunate that happened, because we had a real opportunity to save the district a significant amount of money by going the route that's proposed by the board," Kobza said. "In addition, I think there was a lot of misunderstanding on how that works."
From comments Kobza said he received, the biggest issues with the stadium had to do with a misconception that funds from the $2.5 million project could be used to pay teachers.
The other misunderstanding Kobza said he found was a thought that the project would mean raised taxes.
"In regards to the situation, I think there was misunderstanding in all those areas, and the issue we still face is the safety of the students, and how we transport students," Kobza said.
Board members called for the new stadium project, which moved forward in the past months, because students currently have to cross Kansas Highway 10 to use the stadium facilities.
The proposed lease-purchase would have built the stadium at an estimated cost of from $2 to $3 million to the district. Plans indicate the stadium would seat 3,000 people.
The allocation of the $2.5 million would also go to other capital improvements to the district such as classroom trailers.
Kobza said because the funds were allocated for capital improvement, current regulation forbids the use of the money for teachers' salaries.
The district would also be able to fund the project without raising taxes, Kobza said.
"I just think it's unfortunate, but we'll try to find ways to make the best possible situation for our kids and safest choice for our kids, and try to make a positive economic impact so we can save taxpayers money down the road," Kobza said.
The board will consider its next move at Thursday's meeting, Kobza said.
"We had a real opportunity to save some money in the district in the long term with what was being planned with the stadium," Kobza said. "That doesn't mean we still can't do that, it's just that the board will have to decide which direction it would like to take."
If the school board chooses to go forward with the referendum, the district would be responsible for the cost.
Shew provided an estimated cost of the special election at $3,100, which would cover the cost of election board workers, ballot printing, all the supplies that are needed, necessary publications, the cost of rent for the polling place, the ballot design, and the computer coding for the scanners.
The board will meet 7 p.m. Thursday at the district offices, 1002 Elm St.
"Again if there were a referendum, there would be no tax increase. It would be through existing sources of revenue," Kobza said. "It wouldn't be voting like voting on a bond issue, it'll be allowing the school district to spend the funds that are already being collected."