It's a great day to be a Wildat - Neosho school levy passed by voter

Lee Ann Murphy
Community Editor

Despite a few nail-biting moments for supporters as the election results came in Tuesday night, voters approved the 39 cent levy increase and Prop C waiver for the Neosho School district. The vote tally was 1,954 to 1,895. As a levy rather than a bond, the measure needed a simple majority to pass, which it received with 50.76% of the unofficial final vote count.

As presented throughout the election, postponed from April due to the coronavirus pandemic, the levy will provide storm shelters in the remaining schools that lack them, which are the Neosho Middle School, Field Early Childhood Education Center, Benton Elementary and Central It's Elementary School.

It also provides for a 1,500 seat performing arts center which will not only replace the much smaller and outdated current auditorium but also provide classrooms and practice space. The levy will also build an End Zone facility at the north end of the high school football field which will offer new locker rooms, indoor practice space, a concession pavilion and new restrooms. The current baseball field will be relocated to the district's sports complex at Neosho Junior High School. The project will also create a new entrance to Bob Anderson Stadium, which is currently undergoing improvements. Artificial turf is being installed this summer and that project is funded by private donations. More funding to boost teacher and staff salaries is also part of the package, which district leaders think will help with their endeavors to recruit and retain quality personnel.

The district has hired Branco Enterprises of Neosho as the construction manager for the new projects. In addition, with the recent news that state funding will be cut in areas that include education, the Prop C waiver will help the district in securing additional funding.

The district will increase its operating levy to $3.14 from $2.75 and leave its debt service levy at 60 cents, for a total levy of $3.74 per $100 of assessed valuation, with no sunset on the operating levy upon completion of the projects. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $710.60 annually in school taxes. That same homeowner now pays $636.50.

The levy increase is projected to raise up to $22 million for its construction projects that would be undertaken via lease-purchase financing.

Preliminary time line for the various projects call for the road change (rerouting Hill Street to build the performing arts centers) to begin immediately, storm shelters for Benton and Central by the first day of school in 2021, an estimated December 2021 completion date for the performing arts center, storm shelters at Field and Central by the end of 2020, the relocation of the baseball field before work can begin on the End Zone, and athletic projects phases in with the other ongoing projects.