Performing arts center bond kept off April ballot by mistake


CARTHAGE, Mo. — A clerical error and miscommunication between the Carthage School District and the Jasper County Clerk’s Office means a bond proposal to build a new performing arts center at Carthage High School won’t appearon the April 5 ballot.

Carthage Superintendent Mark Baker, in a post to the Carthage School District’s Facebook page, said he took full responsibility.

“I humbly apologize. Please don’t assume my mistake indicates I am against the PAC,” Baker said. “I wholeheartedly believe the PAC and the additional classrooms are critical components of providing excellent educational opportunities for our students while providing an event venue our students and community can use.”


Baker said two errors were made.

The first happened when the district submitted ballot language for both the bond issue and the annual election of school board members. When the ballot language was submitted, the spaces for voters to shade to make their picks were squares instead of ovals.

Baker said when the school district submitted revised ballots with the ovals, the language asking voters to approved performing arts center bond issue was omitted and no one noticed before the deadline for submitting ballot issues had passed.

“Although I reviewed the documents returned to us from the county clerk’s office, I should have triple checked all documents were signed,” Baker said in the written post. “I accept full responsibility for the error. Charlie Davis and his staff are not to blame.”

An August vote?

Baker said the district would like to get voter approval for the bond before it has to submit its tax documents to the county and state on Aug. 31, but the board will have to hold a new vote to place the measure before voters.

In January, the board voted 5-2 to put the measure before voters in April.

“Aug. 2 is the next opportunity for an election,” Baker said. “I don’t know what the board will do at this point. We’ll talk about it during our board meeting next Monday to give an update. It definitely will not be dropped, I know that.”

The proposal approved by the Carthage Board of Education in January would have asked voters to approve what the district calls a “no-tax-increase bond issue” which would extend the debt service portion of the district’s property tax levy for another two years.


Voters last extended the levy in 2020 for a $10 million bond issue to expand the Carthage Technical Center South building and renovate the Tech Center North building.

The district’s 83-cent debt service property tax levy is currently set to expire in 2040, but if four-sevenths of the voters, or 57.1 percent, vote yes on the measure, the levy would be extended to 2042.

This would allow the district to borrow around $18 million to build a performing arts center, which would include a 1,200-seat auditorium and classroom space for the band, choir and drama programs.

The new auditorium would replace the 800-seat Carthage R-IX Auditorium at the Sixth Grade Center on Main Street, while the new classrooms would allow the existing band, choir and drama rooms in Carthage High School to be remodeled into much needed regular classroom space.

“I think people are forgetting it’s not just for a performing arts center, it’s classroom additions and that’s critical for our high school to expand,” Baker said. “We’ll continue to push the fund raising campaign and I’ll have a community meeting in March even though we’re not having the election in April. We’ll still have a community meeting to explain what this project is all about.”

Private funds

The district already has a commitment from the family of Pat and Carolyn Phelps for $750,000 in return for the center to be named for the couple.

Two years ago, when Baker talked about putting the performing arts center before voters after completing the expansion of the Carthage Technical Center, he said he hoped to raise $5 million before sending the measure to a ballot.

In December 2021, Baker said the district’s financial situation had changed and extending the levy by two years would all the district to borrow more than expected back in 2020, meaning the private fundraising campaign did not have to raise $5 million to finish off the project.

Baker said a private fund drive raising about $2 million would put the finishing touches on the center.