Superintendent leads forum, answers questions concerning bond issue

Superintendent leads forum, answers questions concerning bond issue

Brooke Riley

On Aug. 23, the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce held a public forum at Bellevue University for registered voters to learn about and ask questions regarding a proposed $76 million bond issue. At the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jeff Rippe presented facts about the bond, the voting process and left a majority of the time to clear the air of confusion.

Whether voters were for or against the bond, both sides discussed problems, concerns and ideas to advance funding at Bellevue Public Schools.

“I think what you see are a lot of passionate people on both sides,” Rippe said. “What I appreciate about tonight is people came and listened and hopefully got something out of the meeting one way or another and reinforced how they are going to vote, whether it’s no or yes.”

Bellevue has not had a bond since 1974, which was passed to build Bellevue West. BPS has been able to pay to maintain the schools and community based off Impact Aid, which is federal money for school districts based on military population.

Rippe stated in his presentation that this aid is not enough to maintain the schools in the city.

In Bellevue, the military population percentage has dropped from 35 percent to 30 percent in past years. This drop has brought BPS aid from $17 million to $2 million per year which is one of the major reasons the district wants to pass a bond.

From the meeting, a majority of the concerns shared included how the money will be spent and what for. Those in attendance asked for details, especially regarding technology expenditures. According to Rippe, some voters don’t want to pay higher taxes.

Conversely, those who were in favor of the bond spoke for the students, teachers and the facilities they teach in. They reiterated that better schools leads to better learning.

Unlike the usual voting process, the bond issue is a mail-in election where voters receive their ballot in the mail and send it back after making their decision. This is the first time Bellevue has tried this type of election.

“The advantage of a mail-in is there is only one item on the ballot and that is to vote yes or vote no for the bond issue, you don’t have all the other issues on that.” Rippe said. “Hopefully we get better participation with a mail-in.”

School board member Doug Cook explained at the forum what he would do instead of a bond issue.

“If we sit down and do what I have asked the past four years, and that is to do a complete, comprehensive budget review,” Cook said at the meeting. “That’s what I think we should have done four years ago and I think that’s what we need to do now.”

Rippe said if the bond doesn’t pass, the board will regroup and “find the best way to move forward.” In that situation, Rippe said the board will have to be creative with finding new ways to earn the district money.

The ballots are due Sept. 13 to the Sarpy County Election Commission office either by mail or delivery.

Brooke Riley