Higher taxes, for better schools. Lawton Public Schools is asking you to pass two school bonds, worth $38.5 million dollars, in a special election this Tuesday. One is asking for $5 million for new school buses. The other will provide $5 million for technology, and $28.5 million for construction on 12 schools across the district, including a brand new elementary school on Ft. Sill. But the catch: if it passes, it'll raise your property taxes.
The school bond will provide 90 new classrooms, and that new elementary school, getting kids out of portable buildings. And it will replace an aging school bus fleet and out-of-date computers. But some argue that Lawton homeowners are paying to improve our school district for Ft. Sill kids coming to town because of BRAC; kids whose military parents might not be paying property taxes themselves.
LPS has 140 aging school buses, some more than 30 years old. "We do transport 9,000 students every morning, and we transport 9,000 every afternoon," said LPS Superintendent Barry Beauchamp.
They have seriously outdated technology. "We are still instructing in our classrooms much like we have over the last 100 years, you know, we're just a teacher at a board and a marker, and the world's not operating like that any longer," Beauchamp said.
So LPS is asking for $38.5 million dollars in school bonds. If voters pass the bonds, it will hike property taxes for the next five years. So most people want to see where right that money will be going. "It really makes sense to put the schools where the children are obviously," he said.
But some Lawton homeowners are upset that BRAC is causing this growth, and they're paying for Ft. Sill, not lawton, to get a new elementary school because that's where the biggest guaranteed increase will be. "We really don't look to see whether they're military or not, to be truthful, they're our children," he said.
In fact, the district plans to build 90 new classrooms across 12 schools in Lawton, with the biggest addition coming to Macarthur High School, since so much housing growth is showing up on the east side. But, what about those homeowners who don't have school-aged children anymore? "Truth of the matter is that no one person probably paid enough to pay for the education for their child in taxes at any given time," Beauchamp said. "It takes a community to support the school system."
Beauchamp says bottom line, we need to focus on what's best for our kids in this community, and that's making sure they have the tools and facilities to compete with kids in other districts who have passed several school bonds already. "Our kids deserve to have the opportunity to be in first class facilities with first class opportunities," he said.
Another question many people have been asking: can't the $30 million dollars from the school bond passed in 2004 be used for these improvements? The answer is no, because it's illegal to redirect funds to another project after voters have designated how that money will be spent.
If the school bond passes, your property taxes will increase. So here's what you can expect to pay: