An informational meeting was held on Wednesday, despite inclement weather, to provide Neosho voters with information about the upcoming school levy that will appear on the April ballot. The meeting was held at the high school cafeteria but was also live streamed on Facebook. Called Building Neosho's Future 2.0: The Next Step, the program featured Neosho Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Cummins.

Cummins provided the what, why, when, and how about the proposed levy that would not only increased staff salaries but add a number of improvements within the district.

"It's about our future," Cummins said as he began.

The ballot language for the proposed levy reads:

“Shall the Board of Education of Neosho School District of Newton County, Missouri be authorized to: (a) increase the operating levy by $0.39 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation for operating expenses of the District, including increasing compensation for employees in order to attract and retain quality faculty and staff, and funding the cost of capital projects of the District and (b) fully waive the Proposition C operating tax levy roll back as provided under Section 164.013 RSMo?”

If this question is approved, Neosho School District’s operating levy is estimated to increase from $2.75 to $3.14 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property.

The items listed as capital improvements carry a price tag of $22 million dollars but the measure also asks that the Proposition C be waived, which will also provide funding for the projects.

The projects that will be funded if the levy passes include storm shelters, a performing arts center at the high school, a community multi-purpose End Zone facility, update restrooms, concessions and locker room areas at the high school and update salary schedules for faculty and staff.

The performing arts center for Neosho High School is one of the single largest planned projects.

"It would attach to the atrium," Cummins said. "This is a cost savings and efficiency model."

For the performing arts center to be build, Hill Street, which currently divides the high school campus between the main structure and the stadium as well as parking areas, would be rerouted.

"We have worked with the city for Hill Street to match up with Patterson," Cummins stated.

On the high school grounds, other projects would include athletic upgrades which would include improvements to Bob Anderson Stadium including concession areas and restrooms and an indoor athletic center or End Zone on the site of the current baseball field.

"We would move the baseball field to the Carver/Junior High Complex," Cummins said, noting that this was part of an original plan when the soccer and softball fields were added at that location.

Storm shelters would also be added to the schools that currently have none, which are the Neosho Middle School, Field Early Childhood Education Center, Central Elementary and Benton Elementary School. At Benton, the new safe room would include two classrooms for early childhood education, which Cummins said are needed. At the Neosho Middle School, the shelter would be built where previously mobile classroom trailers were located. The structure there would be designed with a community room with an exterior entrance for parents and visitors to enter the building. Currently, they must walk through the cafeteria space to reach the office.

The timeline for projects would begin immediately, Cummins told those in attendance. If the levy is approved by voters, the performing arts center construction would begin as soon as possible with the rerouting of Hill Street with an 18-month construction period. The performing arts center - which would be used by both the school and the community - is expected to be finished by December 2021. It would seat 1,500. Safe rooms are anticipated to be ready for use by the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Cummins spoke about the future of Central Elementary School. "Our intention is not to close it," he said. "We want to make it a great learning space."

He indicated additional information about plans for Central would be under discussion by the school board in the near future.

He fielded questions from the audience and from Facebook. In response to a question about how the levy would affect senior citizens on a fixed income, Cummins responded, "I think that the first thing is that someone paid it forward (for them) when they were in school. I don't know of very many people who don't want nice amenities in their community."

Cummins indicated that interested patrons are welcome to have a tour of the schools or to phone him to talk about what the cost would be if the levy passes.

The election will be held on Tuesday, April 7. A related article is found on the School Zone page in today's Neosho Daily News.