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In April, voters in the Ozark school district will be asked to decide the fate of a proposed $26.5 million bond issue.

The additional funding, if approved, will allow the district to expand the Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center and renovate the new Ozark Innovation Center.

The April 7 ballot issue is a “no tax increase” bond issue, meaning the measure will not raise residents’ property taxes but will extend the district’s debt.

Superintendent Chris Bauman said the bond issue is an integral part of the first phase of the district’s new long-range plan, which was approved by the school board in March 2019. The first phase focuses on renovation and innovation.

More: Ozark district buys Fasco building to expand high school, alleviate crowding

“I’d like to thank our board, staff and community for partnering with us to create a plan that’s best for Ozark students,” said Bauman, in a written release. “I am excited for the positive impact these projects will have on all our students, from our earliest learners to our high school graduates preparing for their future.”

In Missouri, many districts including Ozark are able to expand early childhood education because additional state funding is now available. The amount available in each district is based on poverty rates.

Last summer, the district spent $4.1 million to buy the former Fasco building to become its new Ozark Innovation Center. The district used a lease-purchase agreement, which provides cash upfront but can be paid off — typically out of day-to-day operating funds — over a period of years.

Acquiring the 170,000-square-foot commercial facility was a critical step to executing the long-range plan.

More: After board vote, Ozark superintendent to stay through at least 2023

If approved, the bond issue will pay to renovate the secondary high school location. The new space will alleviate overcrowding, expand junior and high school programs and allow the district to reconfigure grade levels at different buildings.

The goal is to shift the grade levels starting with the 2022-21 year to reflect the following:

  • Elementary buildings will serve kindergarten through grade 4.
  • Ozark Middle School will serve grades 5-6.
  • Ozark Junior High will serve grades 7-8.
  • Freshman will return to the high school building, which will serve grades 9-12.

The board recently voted to place the bond issue on the ballot. Currently, the district’s debt-service levy is 88 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. If the bond issue is approved, that will remain unchanged.

“In partnering with the community, the district has developed a plan that will realign our grades and buildings in a more efficient manner, address the space requirements of our growing community and offer new and unique educational opportunities that are not available anywhere else in the area; all without increasing taxes,” said board president Jeff Laney, in the release.

“This has very much been a group effort between the district and the community, and we are excited to present these plans to the voters in April.”

Ballot language

Shall Ozark R-VI School District issue its general obligation bonds in the amount of $26,500,000 for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, repairing, renovating, furnishing and equipping school sites and facilities, including renovating the Ozark Innovation Center, remodeling and repurposing the District Office for early childhood learning and acquiring property currently leased by the District? 

Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to criley@news-leader.com and consider supporting vital local journalism by subscribing. Learn more by visiting News-Leader.com/subscribe.

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