Friday, March 9, 2012

Letter From Rob O'Brian, President Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce

Rob O'Brian, President Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce

Recently Rob O’Brian, President of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, released a letter regarding the Chamber’s endorsement of the upcoming school bond.  I would like to take a minute and share with all of you the important facts Mr. O’Brian highlighted in his letter.  Here, in its entirety, is the letter:

Chamber Supports School Bond Funding

April 3 will be a critical day for the Joplin Schools efforts to rebuild after the devastating May tornado.  On that day, Joplin, Duquesne, and Duenweg residents will vote on a $62-million bond to both fill the gaps in rebuilding as well as pursue additional space at the high school and a new east elementary school on the campus of the east middle school.

Your Chamber Board of Directors has reviewed the details of this bond proposal and has ENDORSED it and encourages Chamber members to likewise support this bond.  There is detailed information on the school website at:

School District
Property Tax Rate
Avg. Expenditures per Student
Joplin (current)
Webb City
Joplin (with bond)
Jefferson City
Carl Junction
St. Joseph
Cape Girardeau
Source: MO Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, 9/11

In general terms, the high school and Franklin Tech were constructed for 1,800 students.  The new facility, constructed to allow students to choose and pursue career paths, must be sized to meet state standards for the 2,200 students at the high school.  Neither insurance nor FEMA will cover that additional cost.  A replacement for the damaged East Middle School and its adjoining new elementary and an elementary to replace both Irving and Emerson are part of the plan.  Along with the new physical structures, the district plans to have community safe rooms in all of the schools.  In total, the plan carries a price tag of $185-million.  Insurance and state/federal support, which are designed to return to the “status quo”, address around $121-million.  Donations in hand will cover around $2-million, leaving  $62-million to fill the gap.

That is a big number, but not substantially more than the $57-million issue approved in 2007 to build two new middle schools and expand and renovate North Middle School, which was a 35-cent increase.  The current request also requires a 35-cent increase from the current $3.31 to $3.66.
It is also instructive to look at how Joplin’s school tax rate stacks up with communities in the immediate area.  It is also interesting to look at the other metro areas of Springfield, Columbia, St. Joseph, and Jefferson City as well as with Cape Girardeau, which is the hub of southeast Missouri.  All of these are communities with which we compete in the state for economic development and, consequently, are compared to when it comes to tax rate and expenditures per student.

Today, Joplin has the second lowest tax rate among key communities in our region and the metro areas.  It has the second lowest expenditure per student.  With passage of the bond issue, Joplin moves only to the middle of the pack, with four of the ten communities having a lower tax rate and five higher.  The expenditures per student also move to 5th.  And both tax rate and expenditures per student are still substantially under the state average.

I encourage you to visit the schools' website and get all the facts.  I know Dr. Huff and others in administration are happy to talk in detail about the plans and the needs.  Keep in mind that even with this bond, Joplin Schools move from being at the low end to being in the middle among our regional and statewide comparison districts.  This is one issue that is critically important to rebuilding our community and our future.  It is the right opportunity at the right time.

Rob O’Brian”

Thank you, Mr. O’Brian, for sharing these important facts and statistics with the business community.

Vote Yes on April 3.

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