Students are going back to school today in the Independence district, and they are doing so in the midst of a building boom, thanks to $85 million in bond money approved by voters in the district two years ago.
This time next year, Independence students should be attending an as-yet-to-be-named elementary school in the eastern part of the district’s attendance area. The number of students in that part of the district has grown. Contractors broke ground for the new facility last May.
District wide, bond-funded improvements already complete range from a new gym at Blackburn Elementary School to a new classroom at Luff Elementary to a new, more secure entrance to William Chrisman High School and locker renovations at Truman High.
According to the district, expansions, renovations and building funded by the bond issue are necessary because of a growing number of students. Enrollment has increased from about 10,000 five years ago to more than 13,000 today, and a number of schools were over capacity.
In other bond news, the Independence Board of Education took advantage of a more favorable financial environment to approve refinancing of more than $10 million of existing debt originally approved in 2003. That decision came during their most recent monthly meeting, which took place on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Total outstanding debt has grown from a little more than $77 million in 2006 — about 8 percent of the assessed valuation of the district — to more than $119 million — about 11 percent of assessed valuation. According to the Missouri state constitution, the district’s debt may not exceed 15 percent.
On November 3, 2009, voters approved $85 million in bond financing for the Independence Public School District. However, the district did not sell all these bonds at one time. They sold the third and final $30 million installment last March. For the school district, bonds resemble mortgages for home owners.