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School bond election is underway
Ballots must be returned by Sept. 5
bond Thexton BCYP 2019
Great Bend USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton, standing, at right, speaks to the Barton County Young Professionals, Wednesday at Gambino’s Pizza. Thexton provided details about the bond proposal and answered questions from the audience of about 25 attendees.

The ballots have been mailed for the Great Bend USD 428 bond election for facilities improvements. Registered voters in the school district should have received their ballots this week and they need to be returned before the Sept. 5 noon deadline. The ballots may be hand-delivered to the Barton County Clerk’s Office on the second floor of the courthouse but they come with a self-addressed, post-paid envelope for mailing.

Voters returning ballots by mail need to remember to vote, sign the return envelope and include the residence address as required, and seal the envelope. If there are multiple voters at one address, each ballot should be mail separately in its own envelope.

Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman’s staff reported 10,460 ballots were mailed Tuesday and they have been coming back in “a steady steam.” Anyone who did not receive a ballot and believes he or she should have received one should contact the County Clerk’s office, 620-793-1835.

The bond has two questions. Question One is for a $41,750,000 bond for school improvements to be repaid over 20 years. Question Two can only pass if Question One passes. It seeks an additional $3,120,000 for a new gymnasium at Great Bend Middle School.

Bond information has been presented at numerous public events, in stories in the Great Bend Tribune and on the USD 428 website:

At today’s valuations, it is estimated that passage of Question One will increase property taxes by 13.5 mills and passage of Question Two would result in an additional 1.0 mill increase. The website has calculators for estimating what this would mean for various values of residential, commercial and agricultural property. In general, the estimated tax increase on a $100,000 home would be $155.25 a year if Question One passes and $166.75 a year if both questions pass.

Cost breakdown per building/improvements

Here is the breakdown of how much money would be spent at each building if the question(s) are approved:

- Eisenhower addition/renovation, $1,678,200

- Jefferson addition/renovation, $3,096,417

- Lincoln addition/renovation, $2,696,471

- Park addition/renovation, $2,746,232

- Riley addition/renovation, $3,961,511

- Great Bend Middle School addition/renovation to existing building (includes new wing for sixth grade), $9,258,014

- Great Bend Middle School new gym and locker rooms to accommodate sixth-grade (Question Two), $3,120,000

- Great Bend High School addition/renovation, $9,514,691

- Washington Education Center, $4,689,278

- Transportation and Maintenance building, $4,109,187

Here is another way to break down how the money would be spent:

• Safety and security - 26%

-Secure main entrances in all school buildings

- Add intruder hardware to over 300 classroom doors across eight buildings

- Build 10 storm shelters that double as multi-use spaces such as cafeteria, gym or classroom, depending on location

- Solve drop-off/pickup safety issues at three elementary buildings and GBMS

• Expand early childhood education and move sixth grade - 27% 

- Free preschool in neighborhood elementary schools. The administration reports this is a critical step to establish a foundation for learning and development.

- New pre-k playgrounds

- Promote sixth grade to GBMS. With GBMS student capacity increased by 50%, this requires additional classroom wing and renovations to the cafeteria, kitchen and physical education facilities

• Renovations & life cycle improvements - 26%

- Infrastructure, power supply, lighting and upgrades to aging systems

- New playgrounds at all elementary buildings

- Dedicated space for enrichment programs such as orchestra, elementary art, wellness curriculum

- At Washington Elementary Center, demolish and rebuild the 100-year-old portion of the building; renovate classrooms for special services, therapeutic learning classrooms, Helping Hands and PTRC

• Maintenance & Transportation - 9%

- Build a new structure at the District Education Center to accommodate 20 staff, vehicle fleet and storm shelter

- No renovations at the District Education Center or Central Kitchen are included

• High school classrooms - 5%

- Expand health and wellness classrooms, other modifications to meet curriculum

• Question 2 GMBS Gym - 7%

- Gymnasium addition to accommodate student body growth of 50%

- New construction includes gym, locker rooms, weight room, and re-task of existing small gym for multi-use and physical education classes

“Best plan”

USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton has presented bond information at several public meetings and spoke again Wednesday for the Barton County Young Professionals group.

“As we enter the final stage of this process, we’re proud of the plan,” Thexton said. “After months of consultation with our community steering committee, the Board of Education and our faculty and staff, we know there is no such thing as a ‘perfect plan’ but we do feel that this is a ‘best plan’ for the future of our kids and community.” Information can be found on the website or questions can be directed to administrators at the USD 428 District Education Center, 201 S. Patton Road, by calling 620-793-1500.

“We’ve done our best to invite the community to see the proposed changes first-hand through a variety of in-person and virtual opportunities to tour our buildings, attend presentations and ask questions,” Thexton continued. “With the ballots in-hand, there’s still an opportunity for voters to review the proposed elements and calculate their personal tax impact with the convenient calculator tool on our website. Through the bond election, voters will decide if they are ready to make this investment in our local schools and infrastructure.