School board vice president resigns, will campaign against levy increase

The vice president of the Harrisonville R-9 Board of Education resigned from the board Jan. 31 to campaign against a proposed levy increase which the board is seeking.

Chris Bell’s resignation was effective immediately and he said there were no ill feelings over his move.

“My resignation was completely amiable,” Bell said and added that he had discussed the matter with School Board President Tina Graef and Superintendent Paul Mensching before submitting a formal letter of resignation.

“I resigned to keep it from appearing there was a schism on the board. Board unity is important in cases like this and I cannot support the new levy.”

Bell was the only member of the seven-person board to vote against placing a question before voters on the April ballot to raise the property tax levy.

Proposition I, as it is termed, would ask voters to allow the property tax levy to be raised from its current $3.90 per $100 of assessed valuation to $4.40, an increase of 50 cents. This would be the first tax levy increase in 20 years, although some have contended the schools have received increased funding because of increased valuation.

The increase is proposed to increase pay for teachers and staff and was recommended by the district’s strategic planning committee as well as its steering committee.

Bell said he may organize a formal opposition to the proposed levy increase.

“I’m considering re-convening the Citizens Against the New Tax Levy committee which I initially formed in 2009 to defeat another proposed tax levy increase.”

The group was successful in defeating the issue 10 years ago.

Bell, who said he was first elected to the board in 2010 and defeated in 2013, was later appointed to fill a vacancy in 2016 and won a full term in 2017. He had filed as a candidate for re-election in the upcoming April election.

“It’s too late for me to withdraw my name, but I’m not running for re-election. I am running against the levy.”

The question is, if elected, would Bell serve?

“If I were to be re-elected, I would have to decide then whether to serve or just resign again. At this point, I’m not sure what I would do.”

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