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Architect presents options for USD 428 master plan
Community invited to weigh in
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Community members answer a survey about long-term facilities needs of Great Bend USD 428, Tuesday at the Senior Center. They heard a presentation from SJCF architect Terry Wiggers and weighed in on a possible bond issue in 2019.

Great Bend USD 428 administrators and SJCF architect Terry Wiggers shared the district’s evolving master plan at four community feedback meetings Tuesday. The Great Bend Senior Center, Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Great Bend High School were all sites for community input/feedback meetings. There was also a presentation in Spanish at Riley Elementary School.

A steering committee has studied facility needs throughout the district and come up with options for every building.

“The scenarios have been whittled down to a few options,” Wiggers said. Doing the least expensive options at each site would cost $90 million and choosing the most expensive options would cost over $145 million.

“In September the district paid off the last bond issue,” Wiggers said. If the school district asks voters to approve a bond issue next year, the state would pay 23 percent of the principal and interest, he added.

Wiggers’ presentation starts by identifying the top priorities for building needs. For the community steering committee members, improved safety and security topped the list, followed by:

• addressing preschool needs

• expanding the capacity of elementary schools

• addressing the aging Washington facility

• improving the transportation and maintenance facilities

The steering committee also wants to keep all five neighborhood elementary schools and is interested in moving sixth graders to the Great Bend Middle School. This would require a building addition but would make room at the elementary schools for preschool classes.

Another purpose of the feedback meetings is to learn how much support is out there for a possible bond issue. The master plan will look at the next 20 years but could be done in two or three phases. The latest figures provided by the architect estimate a $100 million bond, financed over 20 years, would raise the taxes on a $100,000 home by a net amount of $28.75 per month ($345 per year) while a $25 million bond would raise taxes on the same home by $6.71 per month ($80.52 per year).

Wiggers reminds audiences that portions of the Washington Early Education Center were built in 1919, “so next year we can say it’s 100 years old. Washington has served its purpose and is ready for retirement.”

Former school board member Dwight Young attended one of the meetings and said he co-chaired one of the last projects of this nature more than 20 years ago. Tearing down the 1919 portion of Washington was suggested back then, but didn’t happen. The district did close Morrison Elementary, which later became the site of the Great Bend Activity Center.

“One of the issues we couldn’t solve back then was not being able to seat the entire student body in the auditorium at Great Bend High School,” Young said. One option for the high school includes a new auditorium.

View it online

All of the options can be seen online at the district website: Look for the link “USD 428 Comprehensive Facilities Study,” under the photo and above the calendar. Information includes a mill levy comparison for school districts and what a mill levy increase might cost a homeowner or agricultural land owner.

The input/feedback survey is also online, Wiggers said.