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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Voters in the Hickman Mills School District will be asked to approve a bond issue and a tax levy Tuesday August 2.

The district wants to raise teacher pay and reopen two of the three schools it closed just three years ago.

Johnson and Symington Elementary and the old Smith-Hale Middle/Freshman Center have become a home for thieves and vandals. It’s been especially bad this summer when the district says multiple fires have been set.

The three schools were closed in 2019 as the district was facing dwindling enrollment and a budget crunch.

This is Johnson Elementary today. Broken

“Good God, man this is worse than I thought,” Hickman Mills Educational Foundation board member John Sharp said seeing broken glass everywhere, walls charred, and part of the gym floor flooded at Johnson Elementary.

Sharp has been checking out the district’s closed schools. He believes the Old Smith-Hale, where he encountered a copper thief in progress, is beyond repair.

“They’ve broken into the walls to get the copper out. They’ve broken up all the plumbing fixtures to get the plumbing out. They’ve set fires in there and there’s mold in there,” he described.

But the district hopes to turn Johnson into a community center and the closed Symington Elementary – facing its own fires theft and vandalism- into a second middle school for the district.

It’s asking voters for a $20 million no-tax-increase bond for the purpose of constructing, improving, renovating or demolishing, repairing, furnishing and equipping school facilities.

“Our school district is on the right track to get reaccredited, but we’ve got to make sure that our facilities are assets to the community, not something for the community to be ashamed of,” Sharp said.

The district is also asking for a $1.35 property tax levy increase to raise staff salaries. The district has called the measure “To the Top” saying it would increase starting teacher pay from 11th out of 12 surrounding metro districts to 1st.

“Right now we’re kind of a training ground for districts that have more money. Teachers come here get a couple years experience then bye bye, because they can go somewhere else and make $10,000 more a year,” Sharp explained.

The levy would increase home owners’ property taxes $256.50 a year for every $100,000 in their home’s value. It requires a simple majority to pass. However, the school facility bond that doesn’t raise taxes requires a 4/7 majority to pass.

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