Safety in the schools continues to be the top selling point from Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education members and administrators promoting passage of a bond election this September. Superintendent Khris Thexton spoke to the Great Bend Kiwanis members this week, describing how $41.75 million and possibly an additional $3.12 million will be spent if voters approve.
The bonds would be for a term of 20 years. At the current valuation, it is expected that passage of Question One, for $41,750,000, would result in a tax increase of 12.75 mills. Question Two, for $3,120,000, can only pass if Question One passes and it would add another 1.0 mill. District officials estimate that the passage of both questions would increase the taxes on a $100,000 home by $158 a year.
It is expected that all registered voters in Great Bend USD 428 will receive a ballot by mail toward the end of August and it must be returned by Sept. 5 to be counted. The two questions on the ballot have already been submitted to Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman but the Kansas State Department of Education still has to approve the resolution at its July meeting. Thexton said he does not expect that to be a problem because the district filed its request early, getting in ahead of other requests that might hit a state cap on bond issues. People can register to vote as late as Aug. 6 and the tentative date for when ballots will be mailed to voters is Aug. 19.
If the bond passes, Thexton said some of the money would go toward making sure every school has a storm shelter and a safe entrance where people must come through the office to enter the building after school starts.
All of the playground equipment at the schools will also be replaced, Thexton said, adding these playgrounds are used year-round and serve as neighborhood parks.
Lincoln and Jefferson elementary schools were built at the same time and have similar features. The plans would change where the entrances and offices are on the buildings. They would also improve pick-up and drop-off of students, he said. “We’re getting them off the street.”
Great Bend Middle School
Great Bend Middle School will see the addition of a wing for sixth graders.
“Our plan was to add preschools at our elementary schools and the best way to do that was to move the sixth graders,” Thexton said. The new addition would also add a second safe room to GBMS. The one it has now was built in 2013 and holds roughly 700 people, which means it could probably hold everyone. However, this adds a second safe room at the opposite end of the building.
Question Two on the ballot deals only with the middle school. It seeks $1.3 million to add a third gym and locker space at GBMS. Thexton explained why it was offered as a second question. “We don’t want the big portion to fail because someone thinks it’s for athletics,” he said. But people in the community are having trouble finding gym space and requested the addition, he said.
Great Bend High School
A new addition at Great Bend High School would be an orchestra room for practices and storing equipment. It would double as a storm shelter that would withstand a tornado. There would also be a new entrance to the high school. Although there are a couple of ways to enter the school in the morning, anyone who came after school started would have to go through the office.
The plan would also expand the Panther Activity Center, adding another storm shelter and more locker room space. It appears on drawings as a wrestling room expansion, but Thexton said it is actually more than that. Lifetime fitness classes such as yoga and aerobics would be taught there.
Part of the main bond issue would go to build a $4.1 million Transportation Center next to the District Education Center. Thexton was asked why this was included in the bond, since at one time the district had considered using its existing Capital Outlay funds for that project, reducing Question One to $35.2 million.
“We included it in the bond because the state pays 23% if it passes,” Thexton said. Parties have already expressed interest in buying the land downtown that houses the maintenance building at present, Thexton said. He doubts there will be much interest in the actual building, however.
Thexton said that while a bond approaching $45 million is significant, it is not extravagant. After the facilities were studied, the first proposal for improvements came to about $90 million. “I said, ‘That’s not going to fly.’ This meets the needs and best represents what the community wants,” he said.
More information is available online at www.greatbendschools.net. Under the pulldown menu “District” across the top of the page, click on “Facilities Plan.” Thexton said this information is being updated and will eventually offer information on expected mill levy impact and more.
What voters will be asked
Here is the wording of the two questions that will appear on mail-in ballots for voters in Great Bend USD 428:
Proposition No. 1:
Shall the following be adopted?
Shall Unified School District No. 428, Barton County, Kansas (Great Bend), issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $41,750,000, to pay the costs to purchase and improve sites, to acquire, construct, furnish, equip, repair, remodel and make additions to buildings and facilities used for District purposes, including: (a) safety and security improvements and storm shelters; (b) improvements and renovations at the existing Eisenhower, Jefferson, Lincoln, Park and Riley Elementary Schools in the District; (c) improvements and renovations at the existing Great Bend Middle School; (d) improvements and renovations at the existing Great Bend High School; (e) improvements and renovations at the existing Washington Special Services Building; (f) additions and renovations for administrative purposes at Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary Schools in the District; (g) construct, furnish and equip new offices and facilities for transportation, maintenance, and grounds; and (h) make all other necessary improvements appurtenant thereto; all pursuant to the provisions of K.S.A. 10-101 et seq., K.S.A. 25-431 et seq., K.S.A. 25-2018(f), K.S.A. 72-5457, and K.S.A. 72-5458 et seq.?
Proposition No. 2:
Shall the following be adopted?
Shall Unified School District No. 428, Barton County, Kansas (Great Bend), issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $3,120,000, to pay the costs to: (a) construct, furnish and equip a new gymnasium and locker rooms at the Great Bend Middle School; and (b) make all other necessary improvements appurtenant thereto; all pursuant to the provisions of K.S.A. 10-101 et seq., K.S.A. 25-431 et seq., K.S.A. 25-2018(f), K.S.A. 72-5457, and K.S.A. 72-5458 et seq.?