Once again the Raymore Chamber of Commerce organized a candidate forum for the Ray-Pec School Board candidates as well as for the City Council Candidates. Brent Ewert was the moderator of the meeting and Robin Noe was the timekeeper. Two candidates were not in attendance, Adam J. Embry and Sonja Abdelgawad.
The first group up for questions was the City Council candidates. Each person had two minutes to answer the question followed by a one minute closing statement.
Question 1 – Tell us about yourself and why you want to serve on the Raymore City Council.
Reginald Townsend – Ward 1 – He has been a resident of Raymore since 2010 after retiring from the Marine Corps. He enjoys the schools and the cleanliness of the city. He is a member of the Raymore Optimist Club and leader in his local church. “I want to continue to serve the City and be part of the future that is going to be Raymore.”
Thomas R. Circo – Ward 2 – He was a local business owner for 19 years and involved with the Chamber of Commerce since 2001. He is an Army veteran has served on the Ray-Pec Booster Club, and helped with the Relay-for-Life event. He promises to be very transparent. As a business owner he has experience in budgeting and contracts. “The people will have my ear 24/7. I want to help keep this thing growing the way it should grow. We are dealing with the people’s money. We want to make sure we are investing right.”
Loren G. Jones, II – Ward 2 – He has lived in Raymore for 11 years. He has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission and is currently on the Arts Commission. He has volunteered with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. He wants to be a catalyst in the next phase of growth for Raymore. He moved here for the schools and a close knit community. He wants to be part of the growth in the future and believes Raymore is a great city. “This is a great time for Raymore and a great opportunity to be a part of that.”
James Petermann – Ward 2 – He has moved here 3 years ago after a 45 year career as a successful sales manager. He would like to see safer neighborhoods, improved traffic flow, and expanded parks and recreational facilities. He volunteers with his church and to help people with needs. He has been involved with the Silverlake HOA. Questions from that experience made him want to get involved at the City level. “I want to be part of the winning team that they have going right now. I want to represent and be the eyes and ears of the people of Ward 2.”
Jay D. Holman – Ward 3 – He has lived in Raymore for 24 years. He is an Air Force veteran and currently works in law enforcement. Over the past 12 years he has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Parks and Rec Board, and on the City Council. “We all want a nice safe, clean community that offers amenities to us. I want to continue to go down the path we have been on for the past 4 years.”
Question 2 – What is your assessment of the current economic development efforts and how would you recommend going forward?
Reginald Townsend – Ward 1 – He would like to see unique businesses come to the area. He said that the City is in long range negotiations and conversations. He feels that it is important to look at infrastructure to support Economic Development. “If we can do some things as a City to help fund some infrastructure changes to help get those customers in, I think we need to support that.”
Thomas R. Circo – Ward 2 – He brought his business here in 2001. He believes that businesses bring good tax base and reduces the taxes on the citizens. “What we need to strive for is a diverse mixture.” He would like to see a hotel and businesses that would provide employment opportunities for citizens. He feels that Economic Development has regulated TIFs properly in the City.
Loren G. Jones, II – Ward 2 – He feels that the City is doing an excellent job with economic devleopment. “When I first came there were not a lot of things. I think the City is doing a good job finding the right fit for the community.” He believes that we need to continue to keep our pulse on the growth of the City. He felt that some revitalization needs to happen in the Foxwood area. “I think it will just continue to move forward.”
James Petermann – Ward 2 – He thinks the City is doing a great job pursuing new businesses. He said that Raymore is getting the residential growth already. Raymore leads Cass County in housing growth. “I want to be a cheerleader for Economic Development.” He also expressed concern about new businesses taking over old businesses and would like to see unique businesses in Raymore.
Jay D. Holman – Ward 3 – “I think it is outstanding. We are in the best place that we have ever been.” He said that many things are being worked on but cannot be openly discussed because of nondisclosure agreements during negotiations. He believes that Raymore is on the “precipice of exponential growth.”
Question 3 – What is your vision of Raymore’s identity in the future – commercial, historical, residential?
Reginald Townsend – Ward 1 – He believes that unique businesses are necessary for commercial identity. “What would draw you to our part of town?” He mentioned that unique art pieces throughout the City are important as well as the planned all inclusive park. He said that Raymore’s history needs to be emphasized even as history is being created. He said that annexation discussions in the residential area are important to entertain.
Thomas R. Circo – Ward 2 – He thinks that the commercial aspect needs to grab unique businesses. He said that Raymore is growing by leaps and bounds in the residential area because of great a Fire Department, Police Department, and school district. He declared that Raymore is the new Johnson County on the Missouri side. “We have a good history we just need to bring it back.”
Loren G. Jones, II – Ward 2 – He thinks that from a commercial standpoint it is important to look to North Cass Parkway and have unique businesses. He said that great residents breed more great residents with their positive comments about the community. “We are making history everyday in Raymore.” He thinks it is important to continue to display the history of Raymore to show people that it is a strong proud community.
James Petermann – Ward 2 – He believes that taxes are important from businesses, but the City needs to have a blend of unique and big box stores. He would like to see more entertainment options. He feels that the City is doing with residential identity. “We need to be sure that we don’t forget how we got to where we are at.”
Jay D. Holman – Ward 3 – He thinks that a balanced approach of all three is necessary. The residential is going strong because of a variety of housing options. He believes that tremendous growth is imminent for Raymore in the commercial arena. He said that the City will soon be installing interpretive signage displaying historical aspects of Raymore including some graphics of the Raymore Allstars at the RAC building. “We are going to start promoting our history through those kind of things.”
Reginald Townsend – Ward 1 – He said he was looking forward to another opportunity to serve the City. “We continue to grow every day. I look forward to taking the bulk of the concerns of the City to this dais and making decisions on behalf of the citizens.”
Thomas R. Circo – Ward 2 – He understands that the position of a City Councilperson is a very large undertaking and that it is very important to have experience and knowledge. “I’m here for the people, always for the people.”
Loren G. Jones, II – Ward 2 – “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to to continue to serve the people of Raymore.” He appreciates the great leadership in Raymore from the Mayor to the City Manager.
James Petermann – Ward 2 – “I just want to be a part of this winning team.” He appreciates that here are both sides on the City Council, but they always come to the middle. He wants to see more connectivity like the 155th Street Project.
Jay D. Holman – Ward 3 – He believes the City is in a great place and is getting better all the time and becoming a major competitor to Lee’s Summit.
There was a brief break before the second group took their seats. Erick Collins from Citizens for Ray-Pec Schools spoke about the upcoming tax issue called Proposition R-P. Ray-Pec is requesting voters to increase the operating tax rate for the District by 75 cents. At the same time, the debt service tax rate is scheduled to decrease by 30 cents, resulting in a net tax rate increase of 45 cents. Several factors have combined to allow the debt service levy to be lowered by 30 cents. First, the Board and Administration have taken action to refinance most of the existing bond debt at or near historically low interest rates. Secondly, the relatively modest enrollment growth rates since the housing recession have allowed the District time to pay off much of the existing debt from a previous growth phase. Thirdly, recent increases in property values allows for a lower rate to pay existing debt payments. Among the top 10 performing KC metro districts, Ray-Pec teacher salaries are consistency in the lower third and less than state average. Salaries for support staff and administrators are also consistently in the lower third of those top 10 districts. Ray-Pec has one of the lowest tax rates among KC metro districts. Even if voters approve the proposed rate increase, the resulting Ray-Pec tax rate will be in the bottom third of KC metro districts. The median home value in the Ray-Pec community is approximately $190,000. A net tax rate increase of 45 cents will cost that property owner approximately $162.45 per year ($13.54 per month or 45 cents per day). The new tax rate would be effective for property tax bills due Dec. 31, 2018. If approved, the District would receive the funds during the 2018-19 school year. For more information on this initiative go to http://www.raypec.k12.mo.us/1233/April-3-2018-levy-issue.
The second group was the School Board candidates. Each person had two minutes to answer the question followed by a one minute closing statement.
Question 1 – Tell us about yourself and why you want to serve on the Raymore-Peculiar School Board.
Paul Bertolone – He has dedicated himself to a life of public service. He has 3 children in the school district. He grew up knowing that life is about helping others and served as a Marine for 20 years. He said he wants to continue to serve the community and offer something back.
Ashley Jones – She has two children in the school district and has a Bachelors in Special Education, and a Masters in Secondary Administration. She moved to Raymore for the school district and has been involved in education for the past 9 years. “I believe my background in education will be a strong asset as a board member. I’ve chosen to run for school board because of my desire to have a voice and a decision to be made for our children.”
Billy King – He has lived in the district for 41 years. Both he and wife are graduates of the Ray-Pec and currently has 4 kids in the school district. He volunteers time with a variety of sports and the WATCH DOG program. “I feel that people and staff would feel comfortable to share ideas and concerns with me that I could then take to the board.”
Will Manda – He moved to the community in 2006 and has had 5 children in the school district. He is very active in coaching sports, volunteering in Boy Scouts, and volunteering at his church. “I relate well with parents and students. I’ve been very passionate about education my whole life.”
Joyce Noah – She is a graduate of the RP School system and has 3 children in the school district. She has served on a policy council for Mid America Regional Council for Head Start and is an active member of the PTA. “I want to be involved in the schools. It’s a great school district with great administration and I want to be a part of that.”
Question 2 – What are your thoughts in regards to the upcoming proposed levy increase?
Paul Bertolone – He believes that people move to an area for the strength of the school system. “We have asked our staff to do a lot with a little for a long time and it’s time to make it up to them and this is a step in the right direction.”
Ashley Jones – She is very excited about this opportunity for the school district. She has a passion for retaining good teachers. She understands that the ballot language only talks about the 75 cent increase but not about the 30 cent debt levy decrease. “I have been a voice for that to make sure people are aware of that when they go to vote.”
Billy King – He noted that this was the first increase since 2003. “We have a flagship school and everybody needs to be a part of it.” He said that property values will increase with a strong school district.
Will Manda – “I feel like we have done a lot with a little and man what can we do with a lot? Why are we losing teachers to districts 10 minutes away? It’s because of salary and benefits.” He believes that it will also help expand programs necessary for preparing students for the future.
Joyce Noah – She is a strong advocate for the Proposition R-P. She wants to keep qualified staff while also recruiting new teachers. She wants to see things like the STEAM and robotics programs to continue to receive support.
Question 3 – What ideas do you have to improve school safety at all school levels in our district?
Paul Bertolone – He believes that the answer is changing the culture and working what has proven effective into the existing framework. He thinks that it is an issue that has to be looked at holistically and evaluate all the different types of threats that are out there. “You can’t build a fortress around every school in the community and then just release them into the world when they are 18 and hope that what we did was enough.”
Ashley Jones – She feels that the district already does great things when it comes to school safety. She thinks it is important to make sure the district has good policy. She also wants to look at the proactive measure the district can take especially in the area of mental health for students.
Billy King – He wants to have the presence of an officer. “I like the idea of the WATCH DOG program and expanding it to the higher grades. I think you would be less likely to see somebody try to do something when they know there is somebody there that is going to step up and protect the kids.”
Will Manda – “It’s about each and every kid feeling safe in the school environment whether it is bullying or fighting.” He believes that kids feel safe when they see an adult presence around. He would like to see the WATCH DOG program expanded as well.
Joyce Noah – She noted that the district currently has 3 SROs among the middle and high school buildings and would like to see more hired if levy passes. She also feels that both the Raymore and Peculiar Police Departments are capable of handling any situation that might arise.
Paul Bertolone – He admitted that he did not grow up in Raymore, but he believes that he brings in a different perspective because of his travel. “I just want to serve. I can think of no better way to be a part of the community than to serve on the school board.”
Ashley Jones – “I have committed myself to education. That is what my passion is. I would love to be able to give my insight.”
Billy King – “I want to communicate and have people communicate with me.” He indicated that he had already talked to a lot of people in the district and found that one issue they would like to see addressed is discipline in the district.
Will Manda – “This is something I do care about. Our school district is far and above one of the best ones around. I want your vote to be part of that team.”
Joyce Noah – “I am very excited about the future for the RP School District.” She was appreciative of this kind of forum for her and the other candidates to have an opportunity for their voices to be heard.
Please mark your calendars for April 4th, 2018 and get out and vote on these offices and ballot initiative.