St. Joseph's challenging past with passing school bond initiatives

Now, in 2021, the district is proposing a bond that's "roughly $0.29" with a sunset of 20 years as school bonds must be paid within that timeframe.

Posted: Feb 26, 2021 11:42 AM
Updated: Feb 26, 2021 3:06 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph's sporadic history with passing school bonds and levies leaves the future of April's proposed bond uncertain. 

The $107 million school bond sitting on the April 6th ballot is designed to downsize the St. Joseph School District's three high school system to two. The bond would transform Benton and Lafayette High Schools into middle schools, keeping Central High School intact as well as renovating the American Family Insurance campus into its new high school, the district announced Monday. 

Some said this upcoming bond's success or failure could affect the SJSD for decades, but passing tax increases meant to benefit students and the school district has been touch and go in the city for years. 

In 2017, a SJSD levy asking for a $4.25 increase per one hundred dollars failed by a landslide. 72% of voters declined the increase. But in 2019, a school levy passed by 64%. Voters said yes to $0.61 cent increase per one hundred dollars. 

Now, in 2021, the district is proposing a bond that's "roughly $0.29" with a sunset of 20 years as school bonds must be paid within that time frame. 

Dr. Doug Van Zyl, SJSD Superintendent, said he understands the difficulties of asking for this tax increase during a pandemic that's left many feel financially constrained, but he said the board wouldn't be suggesting the tax increase if it wasn't needed. 

“It’s a challenge because it does put the burden on your local communities and some local communities are more able and ready to increase their taxes and some communities aren’t. St. Joseph happens to be one of those communities that struggles from time to time to want to be able to increase their taxes because we do have a lot of families that struggle financially. That is a burden and can be worrisome, but hopefully people can put it all on a scale and weigh it and say, ‘What is the benefit?’ and ‘How does this benefit our community?’ and not just them individually,” said Dr. Van Zyl. 

The district is only in the talking stage with American Family. The purchase of the campus is contingent on passing the bond in the April 6th election as well as finalizing negotiations with the insurance company. 

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