The Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education is ready to ask voters to approve as much as $44.87 million in bonds for school improvements that address safety and other issues. The board approved a resolution Monday to submit its proposed bond referendum to the Kansas State Department of Education.
The meeting also saw board members vote on pay increases and the negotiated agreement with teachers, which was also approved.
The work on a bond referendum began over a year ago with the district administration and a community task force studying building needs and coming up with a long-term master plan for school facilities. If the state approves the resolution, the bond issue will go to voters as a two-part question, Superintendent Khris Thexton said. The plan calls for a mail-ballot election with the ballots sent to the addresses of registered voters two weeks before the Sept. 5 election day. They must be returned by that day, either by mail or directly to the Barton County Clerk’s Office at the courthouse, in order to be counted.
Question 1, also called “Project 1,” asks the voters to allow the district to issue general obligation bonds not to exceed $41.75 million. The purpose will be for improvements and additions to district facilities, including:
• Safety and security improvements and storm shelters
• Improvements and renovations at the existing Eisenhower, Jefferson, Lincoln, Park and Riley elementary schools
• Improvements and renovations at the existing Great Bend Middle School (which will allow the district to move sixth graders from the elementary schools to GBMS)
• Improvements and renovations at the existing Great Bend High School
• Improvements and renovations at the existing Washington Special Services Building
• Additions and renovations for administrative purposes at Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary schools
• Construct, furnish and equip new offices and facilities for transportation, maintenance, and grounds and
• Make all other necessary improvements appurtenant thereto.
The question will be, shall (the above) be adopted? Yes or no.
Proposition 2 seeks an additional $3.12 million to build and equip a new gymnasium and locker rooms at Great Bend Middle School. This will also be presented as a yes or no question, but it can only pass if the first question passes, Thexton said.
Assistant Superintendent John Popp described part one as dealing primarily with safety, security entrances, some storm shelters and the flow of traffic at some schools. Improving traffic flow is considered a safety issue because of the congestion when students are dropped off and picked up. It also adds a sixth-grade wing to Great Bend Middle School. Improvements at Great Bend High School are primarily safe entrances, new lockers and an orchestra room/safe room.
Attending Monday’s meeting were Terry Wiggers with Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture and Dustin Avey with Piper Jaffray’s public finance group.
Avey said the adoption of the resolution was timely. There is a $400 million cap on how much Kansas schools can seek for bond issues that go above 14 percent of a district’s assessed valuation. Great Bend’s request is $16.9 million above that limit. But Great Bend was only one of many school districts holding board meetings Monday night, and Avey estimated all but $25 million of the $400 million bond cap will still be available on Tuesday.
He also noted that bond interest is as low as 3% now, a full 1% lower than six months ago.
Wiggers said he will meet with the steering committee and others who are interested next week to make plans for an informational campaign about the proposal.
“Our goal is to make sure everybody understands the solutions, understands the questions,” he said.
There will be several subcommittees, including one in charge of getting people registered to vote.
District pay raises
In other business, the board met in executive session for 20 minutes to discuss the negotiated agreement — that is, teacher contracts. Following the executive session, the board voted to approve a consent agenda that included the negotiated agreement, as well as pay raises for classified employees, directors and administrators. The pool of money represents 4.5 percent in pay increases overall, but these are not across-the-board raises, Thexton said.
The negotiated agreement was ratified by the Great Bend-National Education Association at the end of May. It adds $1,300 to the base salary, meaning new teachers will start at $39,000 a year. Teachers are also on a grid that pays $400 a year for experience (until the maximum is reached) and also pays more for additional education, such as earning a master’s degree. This means most teachers can expect at least $1,700 more in pay next year, Thexton said.