No increase in property taxes would result from the approval of a $143 million bond issue voters in Topeka Unified School District 501 will consider in an April 8 mail ballot election. That was among the key points USD 501 Superintendent Julie Ford made Monday evening during a "Bondfire" gathering held to spark interest and support for the bond issue. At least 35 guests invited by the district attended the gathering in the district's Burnett Administrative Center. One of the postcard-like invitations mailed out by USD 501 arrived at The Topeka Capital-Journal. The invitation said: "You have been chosen as a key member of our community, and we want to give you a special opportunity to learn about Topeka Public Schools' upcoming bond election. We will be passing out the latest information and statistics, and answering any questions you may have. Come on out, and warm up to the Bondfire and support Topeka Public Schools students and staff." USD 501 board members Janel Johnson , Peg McCarthy , Patrick Woods , Scott Mickelsen and John Williams all attended Monday's evening, where Johnson and McCarthy spoke. Monday's audience also heard from Ford; deputy USD 501 superintendent Larry Robbins ; Greg Vahrenberg , of Piper Jaffray , which has been advising the district on the bond issue; and Tammy Austin , the district's assistant superintendent of administration and teaching and learning. Ford said revenue from the bond issue would go to accomplish two general purposes: Improving security and enhancing educational opportunities for students and staff. Robbins said 31.5 percent of the revenue would go for security purposes, which would include digital security camera systems and the installation of digital panic buttons on all schools. Ford said the proposed educational enhancements would focus on providing cutting-edge, 21st Century classrooms and technology to prepare students for their careers. She stressed that an economic impact student the district had carried out by Impact DataSource concluded passage of the bond issue would bring Topeka $278 million in economic impact. As Ford spoke, at one point a PowerPoint slide behind her stressed, "NO INCREASE IN TAXES Due to the Bond Issue." She said reasons the district could accomplish that included: - USD 501 has the second highest bond rating in the state. - The district has retired four bonds and will retire two more in the next two years. - The bonds would be repaid over 30 years instead of the standard 20. - 44 percent of the $143 million cost would be paid by the state of Kansas . Ford said the latter opportunity "may go away in the near future," as a bill currently before the Kansas Legislature would end effective July 1 the district's ability to arrange for the state pay 44 percent.
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