April 2022 Election Central

As the voice of the business community, the Chamber takes seriously its responsibility to keep our members informed about local government issues that affect businesses. Whether it’s a ballot initiative unique to Columbia/Boone County or a statewide issue, if the Chamber Board has endorsed it, you’ll know about it here.

You’ll also get the opportunity to know and hear from candidates of certain races. You’ll get to hear their positions on business-related topics while they answer questions during candidate forums or one-on-one interviews with the Chamber.

Columbia Chamber of Commerce Endorses Columbia & Boone County Use Tax Measure

At their January meeting, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors unanimously voted to endorse the Internet Use Tax measures proposed by the City of Columbia and Boone County for the April 5 general election. If passed, the measure will allow Columbia and Boone County to collect city and county use tax, respectively, on purchases made by consumers who reside inside the municipality’s limits. The rate will be the same as the total local sales tax and both municipalities plan to allocate the funds collected by the use tax in the same way that sales tax is currently used, which funds important local initiatives such as public safety, public health, streets and sidewalks.

“This measure is critically important to our local brick-and-mortar businesses because it levels the playing field of competition against online and out-of-state businesses,” says Matt McCormick, President and CEO, Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “Proposition 1 will ensure that equivalent goods sold through online and brick-and-mortar stores are comparably priced. Our businesses deserve an equal chance to compete for consumers’ dollars, and it benefits everyone in our community when those dollars stay local.”

The City of Columbia estimates that the use tax will generate an additional $5.6 million in annual revenue for the city, allowing the city to improve parks, streets, sidewalks, and make important investments in public safety and public health. “Attraction and retention of quality employees is a huge challenge facing businesses right now,” said McCormick. “Improvements to public safety, transportation, and amenities in our community can have a long-term impact on the livability of Columbia and mid-Missouri, making it easier for businesses to attract great employees and grow our economy.”

More information about the Use Tax Propositions:
City of Columbia Use Tax explainer page
Boone for Prop 1 website

Columbia Chamber of Commerce Endorses No-Tax-Rate-Increase School Bond Issue

At their March meeting, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to endorse the no-tax-increase bond issue proposed by Columbia Public Schools for the April 5 general election. If passed, the measure will allow CPS to issue bonds in order to fund the construction of two new elementary schools, renovations/additions to the Columbia Area Career Center, and an addition to Battle Elementary School. The ballot measure approves the issuance of bonds and does not involve any increase in taxes.

“Quality public schools are foundational to a strong economy in Columbia,” says Lily White, Vice President of External Affairs, Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “A great public school system is a significant factor in attracting and retaining great workforce talent to our area. Our schools are also training the next generation of workforce in Columbia, particularly at the Columbia Area Career Center. We are so pleased to support this measure that would provide additional resources to these great programs as they educate Columbia’s future leaders.”

For more information, visit the Columbia Public Schools explainer page.

Candidate Meet & Greet March 23

On March 23, the Chamber welcomed the candidates for mayor and Columbia City Council to a meet and greet forum to help business leaders become informed voters for the April 5 election. If you were not able to attend the event in person, we have made a recording available above for public use.

The April ballot will feature five mayoral candidates, two 3rd and 4th ward candidates respectively, a proposition on Columbia City and Boone County Use Tax and a school bond issue.

Thank you to our event sponsors:

Presenting Sponsor Joe Machens Dealerships; Location Sponsor Missouri State High School Activities Association

School Board Candidates Q&A

Although our school board candidates are invited to attend our Candidate Meet & Greet event, in the interest of time we were not able to give each one speaking time at the event. Instead, candidates were given the opportunity to answer several questions about how the public school system can collaborate with the business community and their positions on several important issues. Submitted answers are listed below.

Please speak to your position on the no-increase school bond issue and the plans of use for those funds if it passes.

As a community member (and as a Facilities Manager) I know the importance of building & property maintenance. CPS has 39 school buildings with 16 (41%) buildings 50+ years old. It’s imperative that we maintain our buildings and the districts long range facilities plan to ensure our facilities meet our community needs. CPS has developed a Bond schedule that allows CPS to continue to improve our facilities without having to revise our debit service (ask for more money) using this current plan.

A budget for this bond issue has been created and released by CPS Chief Financial Officer, Heather McArthur. Where Board Members will have input is the $3 Million dedicated to ADA enhancements and facility & maintenance improvements. CPS will complete a 3-year comprehensive assessment of all campus facilities this year. Each item discovered will be ranked in severity. This list will then be used to address building issues and CPS has allocated additional funds in the 2022-2023 general operating budget for the smaller items and will plan on using the bond for the larger items. To keep in mind, when performing major renovations, the entire facility must be brought up to current building code, including ADA Access.

 

How would you work to ensure that new training opportunities at the Columbia Area Career Center are meeting our community’s workforce needs?

This is where community partnerships, one of my focus points of my campaign, come into play. Nationwide, we have a shortage of skilled labor workers. Working with our community partners to help forecast future needs and develop programs to help close this gap will be critical to the success of this institution. We have an amazing staff of educators, not only in our CACC but the district overall, that can help achieve this need for our community and our state. CPS purpose is to prepare our children to that they will be competitive in an ever-changing, unpredictable world. The CACC is a major key to meeting this purpose, by preparing students and adults for the workforce.

As part of the long-range facilities plan, community members voiced they wanted more programs built into the High School buildings. This has been delivered and some of the more common programs, such as the Culinary and Agriculture programs, are housed in each High School. This limits the time students are out of school traveling from campus to campus. The larger programs, such as welding, would remain at the CACC. CPS had also partnered with Moberly Area Community College offering adult programing at the CACC.

 

What are your plans to create a culture in which current teachers want to stay and new teachers want to be at the Columbia Public School District?

Every employer nationwide is working on how they recruit and maintain the highest performing workforce in this ever-changing world. When you look at this issue from a 30,000 foot view, most Employees leave their employers because of their work environment. The School Board needs to ensure they set the direction and priority for the CPS Administration. This includes making sure that we have open line of communication (both ways), starting with each building leadership team flowing to the district administration. Making sure that we are supportive in the needs of the CPS workforce, doing the best that we can with the resources we have.

I would also like to see a complete overhaul of our recruitment and retention program for all staff, not just educators. This pandemic has changed our world, including how recruitment and retain staff. CPS is the 5th largest School District in the State of Missouri. This is an amazing education organization, and we need to make sure that CPS highlights everything that is offered for our workforce, not just our pay structure – everything great that is offered by being a CPS Employee.

Please speak to your position on the no-increase school bond issue and the plans of use for those funds if it passes.

CPS has carefully and conservatively assessed the upcoming needs of our district.  They have clearly outlined how the funds will be allocated.  I think we can be creative in using our ESSER funds to cover costs of HVAC, etc, so that we can make the most of every bond dollar.

People have come out stating publicly that they will vote “no” for the bond issue, as a way to let CPS know they are unhappy with our academics. Columbia used to be a model district in the state; we are now performing below state average. Among comparison school districts, Columbia ranks 9/13. In Boone County we rank 5/6.  This academic decline began in 2016, well before the pandemic. For a community that values education so highly, most people are shocked.

I’m concerned about our academic rigor. If elected, my top priority will be improving our academics! I am passionate about our public school system and providing an excellent education. I sympathize with community members who want their voices to be heard. I will be voting “yes” for the school bond, because it benefits our students and our community. If you want your voice to be heard, please vote Andrea Lisenby on April 5.

 

How would you work to ensure that new training opportunities at the Columbia Area Career Center are meeting our community’s workforce needs?

Businesses in Columbia and the surrounding areas are experiencing a shortage of qualified candidates in the workforce, most notably in the area of skilled labor. The proposed bond issue is allocating 15 million dollars to improvements to our Career Center. It’s essential that our district work closely with Chamber members and other business leaders to identify the workforce needs of our community.

As a School Board Member, I will continue to foster the relationships I’ve built over the years at the Chamber, Women’s Network, Rotary, etc. My husband and I received the Chamber Small Business of the Year award in 2015, and I’ve served on local non-profit Boards. My plan is to listen and learn from my colleagues (and new collaborators), as it pertains to the programing needs and workforce training at our Career Center. I would also like to partner with our local universities and colleges.

I would love to have the opportunity to participate on a steering committee, as we update and expand the Columbia Career Center.

 

What are your plans to create a culture in which current teachers want to stay and new teachers want to be at the Columbia Public School District?

My experiences as both an employee and as a business owner have taught me the value of work culture. While salary and benefits are important, they are not the only factors important to employees. I’ve made my focus these past 3 months to be in our schools, listening and learning from teachers and administrators.

When we talk about work environment, teachers feel a lack of support. As a district we need to address their concerns regarding options for students with behavioral challenges. We also need to provide consistent communication and opportunities for them to give their feedback.

Columbia is fortunate to have multiple Colleges of Education in our front yard.  Many Education students are exposed to CPS during their student teaching rotation. We need to maximize this opportunity to recruit outstanding candidates.

One of the things that has impressed me the most these past few months, was seeing the extent of leadership skills among our CPS principals! They are working overtime for our students and teachers.  I have a sense of urgency in addressing the teacher recruitment and retention efforts. Columbia has always had exceptional educators; I will work hard to keep up our tradition!

Please speak to your position on the no-increase school bond issue and the plans of use for those funds if it passes.
I am in favor of the bond issue. CPS will spend the majority (estimated 23M) of the first half of the 80M bond on a new elementary school on land next to John Warner Middle School. Our southern elementary schools are crowded and we need the space! CPS also has many areas of building maintenance to address and the money can only come from local bonds. No state or federal money is given for these needs.

How would you work to ensure that new training opportunities at the Columbia Area Career Center are meeting our community’s workforce needs?
I’ve been in touch with Mark Bauer, who is the VP for Workforce Development at the chamber. I learned a survey has been sent out to area businesses to identify areas where more engagement is needed. A program called Show Me Careers: Educator Experience, a partnership between the Missouri Chamber, the Columbia Chamber and CPS is also underway to send CPS educators to job sites to learn what skills are needed in our community so they can begin to develop programs to teach students those skills. The goal is to create a career pipeline from our schools to our local workforce. As a board member, I would support that work in whatever way possible.

What are your plans to create a culture in which current teachers want to stay and new teachers want to be at the Columbia Public School District?
DESE has recently launched a 50M campaign to recruit and retain more teachers in Missouri. CPS participates in a “Grow Our Own” program to develop students into teachers. Once new teachers come to CPS, we must keep them! At CPS, teachers want to be trusted to be competent and allowed some autonomy to be the professionals they are. More could be done in the area of mentoring new teachers to provide support in the first overwhelming years. There used to be a partnership with MU called the Fellows program that provided a lot of mentorship for teachers and it was successful. It ended due to lack of funding, but in light of the current teacher shortage, it may be time to prioritize
programs like that again.

Please speak to your position on the no-increase school bond issue and the plans of use for those funds if it passes.

I am in support of the no-tax increase school bond ballot issue on April 5 for these three reasons:

  1. Continued improvements to our physical structures from buildings to playgrounds to be ADA accessible to everyone in our community – a commitment to one of our newest 10-year long-range facilities planning goals.
  2. Continued respond to our growth. People are wanting to move to Columbia and raise their children here, so as a district we must respond by building additions to current schools or new schools to ensure we are not having overcrowding in our buildings.
  3. A 21st-century update to the physical structure of the Columbia Area Career Center. This update will allow us to highlight better the phenomenal educational experiences our students have access to and provide a more appealing opportunity for our community to witness the great work our students are doing in their courses at the CACC.

 

How would you work to ensure that new training opportunities at the Columbia Area Career Center are meeting our community’s workforce needs?

Part of this work is by supporting our bond. If the bond is approved, overseeing the improvements to the CACC to ensure that we are still providing quality courses during the improvements and the construction moves quickly, so our students can begin engaging with a 21st-century CACC as fast as possible. Beyond supporting the bond, it is ensuring the district is in constant partnership and collaboration with the chamber and any new state workforce development programs to ensure that we are providing the best opportunities to prepare CPS students to be workforce ready when they graduate.

 

What are your plans to create a culture in which current teachers want to stay and new teachers want to be at the Columbia Public School District?

I believe that having 3 years of experience being a board member now that I am the best qualified of the four candidates to address this topic of concern. If re-elected, I will become one of two board members not in their first term. The other being Board President Wade – she has served now for 11 years. The experience of being on the Board during this difficult time as a community gives me the insight to know where we were in the past, where we are at currently, and be able to course a plan for our future. It is even more important to have the institution/historical knowledge and knowledge of how to enact the role of a board member when we have many new district and building administrators. It is through my experience as a board member that I will be able to work with our staff to best implement processes that attract, retain, and help ensure our teachers not just be told, but feel that they are educators in a healthy work environment with a community that supports their work as a professional in preparing our kids to be critical thinking and engaged citizens of the United States.