The Great Bend USD 428 administration has trimmed its Master Plan for building needs and may bring a bond issue to voters in September, Superintendent Khris Thexton told the board of education Monday. Action on a bond proposal is expected at the June 10 meeting.
Thexton reported that the only portion of the estimated cost summary that still isn’t final is the Transportation and Maintenance building. Originally estimated to cost $4.1 million, that new addition next to the District Education Center could meet district needs for less — perhaps $3 million — and there’s still a possibility it could be built with existing Capital Outlay funds and not included as part of a bond issue. Thexton said the district has $7 million in its Capital Outlay fund. However, nothing is set in stone and even the drawings provided by the SJCF Architect firm are only concepts at this time, Assistant Superintendent John Popp told the board.
The most recent “Master Plan (Possible) Phasing Cost Summary” would cost a total of $81.7 million, but that would be done in three phases over the next 10-15 years or longer. What the board is considering is Phase 1, which currently comes to between $35.2 million and $44.9 million.
Phase 1 could go to voters as three questions. Question one would have to pass before questions two or three could be added to the total. Here’s what the questions would include, using the early numbers provided Monday:
• Additions and renovations to all schools, including adding safe rooms and making sure that once students are in the building for the school day, no one can enter the buildings without going through the office.
• Removing the 100-year-old portion of the Washington Early Education Center, keeping the newer gym, and replacing the rest of the building with a metal building and brick facade. Also making improvements to the District Office, Food Service, and Transportation and Maintenance.
Total cost, $39,589,300, or $35.2 million without Transportation.
• Adds a new gym and lockers at Great Bend Middle School for $3.1 million.
• Includes more administrative additions at Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary Schools, improving the drop-off and pick-up traffic at both schools, for $2.2 million.
The administration also looked at how these options might affect the mill levy and local property taxes for a $100,000 home. Although a table showed bond issues of 20 and 25 years, Thexton said a 20-year bond would be his preference. The estimated mill levy increase for a 20-year bond would range from 12 mills for Question 1 only to 13.75 mills for all three questions.
The tax increase on a $100,000 home would range from $138 a year for a 12-mill increase (that’s $11.50 a month, or 38 cents per day) to $158.13 a year for a 13.75-mill increase ($13.18 a month, or 43 cents per day). While estimates are available for other types of property and for homes in other price ranges, Thexton focused Monday on a home valued at $100,000. He noted that the Census median value of a Great Bend home is $87,500.
At the June 10 meeting, Thexton said he hopes to bring representatives from SJCF Architects and from Piper Jaffray, the company that sells bonds for the district.
Previously, the administration thought it would not be allowed to present a proposal for a bond issue to the Kansas State Department of Education before July 1. Each year there is a statewide cap on school bond issues and Thexton said he expects this year’s cap to be $350 million to $380 million.
But Thexton told the board that requests can be filed prior to July 1. “You can actually get in line now,” he said.
Popp explained that the next step would be for the board to pass a resolution to seek a bond issue, and to publish that resolution in the Great Bend Tribune. If this is done in June, and the KSDE approves, voters could receive the special election question via a September mail-in ballot.
Popp said they would prefer not to use the November general election ballot. There is a window after the general election when special elections are not allowed. This means a mail-in election held after September could not be done before January.
The administrators said only the details of what is needed for the transportation building still need to be “shored up.” Their question for board members on Monday, as voiced by Popp, was, “Does this reflect the plan we’re wanting to move forward with?”
Board members Chris Umphres and Deanna Essmiller were unable to be there for Monday’s discussion, and Thexton said he’d want the entire board to hear the June 10 presentations. Meanwhile, those present said the plan is taking shape, meeting the priorities they established and also addressing concerns brought up by community members during public meetings on the plan.
Board member Susan Young said the plan has been trimmed from over $100 million to a bond issue that could be under $40 million. “The public will appreciate this,” she said. “I think this reflects what I would want for our district.”
Administrators and board members alike mentioned the safety issues of storm shelters and secure entrances.
“The safety and security of our kids was the main thing,” said Jacquie Disque. Cheryl Rugan agreed.
Additional space is also needed, Thexton said. This is especially true at GBMS, which could use more space even without adding sixth graders to the building. And the storm shelters won’t be unused space, he added. One idea is to have the renovated GBHS Auditorium and a new, adjoining orchestra room serve as storm shelters. At present, the orchestras at GBMS and GBHS don’t have their own rooms.
And, Rugan said, while most of the Phase 1 additions to the high school appear to be for athletics, that’s really not the case. The Panther Activity Center (PAC) and the GBHS locker room lockers that would be upgraded are “really used by every student,” she said. “It’s been beneficial for the board to learn about what the community wants,” she added. For example, the plan deals with traffic problems at GBMS and (with Question 2) at Lincoln and Jefferson.
Thexton said the next issue after safety was adding programs that the district needs. This plan will allow all five elementary schools to have preschools once the sixth graders are moved to GBMS.