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Piper district plans $35 million bond election for new school in February

The Piper School District is proposing to build a new third through fifth grade elementary building at 131st and Leavenworth Road. Superintendent Tim Conrad discussed the project at a recent informational meeting. (Staff photo)

by Mary Rupert

The Piper Public Schools district is planning a $35 million bond issue election for a new school Feb. 22, 2018. Only two years ago, voters there defeated a $67 million school bond issue.

The bond issue would pay for a new third through fifth grade building on property the district has owned for years at 131st and Leavenworth Road, Piper Superintendent Tim Conrad told a group of eight persons who attended an informational meeting on Monday night, Nov. 20, at Piper High School. If approved, the school could open in 2020.

Piper enrollment is growing, according to the superintendent. A study has projected a 3.5 percent annual growth in enrollment in the future. The district also cited new home building permits in the Piper district, which grew from 86 in 2015, to 131 in 2016, and 196 in 2017.

“The bottom line, on Feb. 22, if this fails, we’re going to have to bring in another modular unit,” Conrad told the group. It might be placed at the West elementary site, and traffic would become more congested there, he said. Piper already has a modular unit now.

He said it also is possible that class sizes will increase. Currently, class sizes are 25 to 27 students. Even if the district hires additional teachers, there is not enough space for additional classrooms, he said.

Conrad also discussed the effect of schools on communities.

“A thriving school system welcomes all sorts of growth, and it works the opposite way, too,” he said. If the district is struggling, has discipline issues, has a high student-teacher ratio and student performance deteriorates, people tend to go to the next district, where their child could be successful.

“You’re going to be impacted one way or the other,” he said.

With a new school building, property values will increase, he said. Without a new building, there is a high chance that property values will start decreasing, he said. Neighboring school districts are offering outstanding programs for high school students, primarily because they have space to do so, he said. The Basehor district, for example, passed a $39.9 million bond issue two years ago to build a new career and technical education center at the high school, he said.

Piper needs the space for elementary students now, with a high school expansion planned later, he said, so that it will be able to serve the district’s needs.

“It’s the thing to do for our kids,” he said. The district has to take care of immediate needs, and also the long term, he added.

The new elementary building would increase taxes about 6 mills in the district, he said.

Conrad said the elementary building proposed now is the first phase of the project, and that is the only one being voted on at this time. A second phase, additional space at the same location at 131st, could start when the older bond project, the West Elementary built in 2008, is paid off. At that time, from 2026 to 2028, the complex at 131st could be turned into a new high school building, with more space added then, he said. The elementary building at 131st could be transformed and used for high school space at that time.

In all, the two-phase complex could be built for a total of 6 mills more than what district residents are currently paying, he said. Conrad said the district hasn’t raised the mill levy in the past five years. The bond levy amount for the 2008 West Elementary is proposed to continue at the same level when the bonds are paid off sometime in 2026 to 2028.

Taxes on a $250,000 home would go up an estimated $14.70 a month if the $39 million bond issue passes, according to Piper officials. Currently, district residents are paying 58.4 mills, which is less than Olathe, Bonner Springs, Blue Valley, Basehor, Turner and Tonganoxie, but higher than Shawnee Mission and Kansas City, Kansas.

Conrad said the Piper district does not get any funds from the sales tax bonds being paid off on the Legends Outlets; that shopping area is not in the Piper school district. The Piper district receives about $120,000 to $130,000 a year from the Hollywood Casino under an agreement with the four school districts in Wyandotte County. The Plaza at the Speedway shopping area, including Walmart, is in the Piper district.

According to district information, the proposed third to fifth elementary grade building would be constructed in such a way that it could be enlarged to become a high school in the future. There would not be a football stadium at the location; however, there might be ball fields there in the future, Conrad said.

The district’s voters defeated a $67 million bond issue for a new school in June 2015 with 55 percent voting no and 44.6 percent voting yes, with a 34.5 percent turnout.

One of the persons who attended the meeting, Donald Keating, said he lived near the proposed site of the new school building. He asked a number of questions. A retiree, he was concerned about his taxes going up, about Leavenworth Road being widened and losing some property to the widening, about increased noise, and about the possibility of one day being required to connect to a sewer system.

Discussions are currently underway with the Unified Government about road widening, according to the superintendent. The UG will ultimately make decisions on roads and sewers.

A Piper district board work session is planned Nov. 27 on the bond project, and more community information sessions are planned at 7 p.m. Dec. 18, Jan. 22 and Feb. 5 in the Piper High School auditorium.

Superintendent Tim Conrad discussed the two proposed phases of a Piper school building project. On the left is a building for third through fifth grade. On the right is the second phase, to take place several years in the future, that would expand the buildings into a high school. (Staff photo)


An artist’s rendition of the second phase of the Piper school building project. Only the first phase is on the ballot in February.

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Schmidt leads delegation to Taiwan

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt earlier this month led a delegation of state and territorial attorneys general to Taiwan to discuss state-level relations and transnational issues with senior officials.

“Taiwan is a significant trading partner for Kansas, particularly as a market for our agricultural products, and expanding our relationship is beneficial for our state,” Schmidt said. “Of course, we also have other important shared interests that extend beyond trade.”

The delegation of three attorneys general met with Vice President Chen Chien-jen, a public health professional by training, and compared experiences addressing the needs of aging populations in the two countries. The attorneys general also met with Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san and Investigation Bureau Director-General Tsai Ching-hsing to discuss transnational security issues, including money laundering, drug trafficking and cybersecurity.

In a separate meeting with Tzong-Li Hsu, president of the Judicial Yuan, the rough equivalent of chief justice of the supreme court, they discussed the ongoing process for judicial reform in Taiwan. The attorneys general shared experiences and information about the U.S. system of trial by jury.

The attorneys general also met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mainland Affairs Council, and Taiwan External Trade Development Council. They visited a women’s prison and participated in an anniversary celebration for an organization that assists released inmates with re-entry into society. They had meetings with several prosecutors from the north and central regions of the country.

“Our shared interests are extensive,” Schmidt said. “From cybersecurity to combating drug trafficking and human trafficking, our discussions addressed issues of importance to Kansas.”

Schmidt led the delegation in his capacity as president of the National Association of Attorneys General, which coordinated the visit. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States sponsored the delegation. No taxpayer funds were used.

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