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USD 428 looks at leaner bond request
school board 12-10-19
Terry Wiggers, senior vice president of SJCF Architecture, left, talks to Aaron Emerson, who was elected in November to take a seat on the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education in January, prior to Monday’s school board meeting. Seated behind them are board member Susan Young and Great Bend High School Librarian Emily Mulch. - photo by Susan Thacker

After listening to community feedback following a failed bond election in September, the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education is considering another bond proposal in the spring of 2020. On Monday, Terry Wiggers, the senior vice president of SJCF Architecture, gave a report on what might be included in a leaner bond issue.

Last September, voters rejected two questions for 20-year bonds of $41,750 and $3,120,000 — a total of almost $45 million. If both questions had passed, it was estimated that property taxes would increase by 14.5 mills, and the estimated annual tax increase on a $100,000 home would have been $166.80.

The latest suggestion offers voters three questions:

• The largest, for $33,675,000, would require an additional 9.5 mills over 20 years. However, Wiggers said interest rates are so low that the district might want to take advantage of them with a 25-year bond, requiring a tax increase of 8.25 mills.

• A second question seeks a $3,3750,000 bond, requiring a tax increase of 1.25 mills for 20 years or 1.0 mills for 25 years.

• A third question seeks a $1,830,00 bond, requiring a tax increase of 0.75 mills for 20 years or 0.5 mills for 25 years.

• Passage of all three would total $38,880 million, requiring an estimated property tax increase of 11.5 mills for 20 years or 9.75 mills for 25 years. At those rates, the estimated annual tax increase on a $100,000 home would be $133.26 for 20 years or $112.13 for 25 years.

Proposed changes

The proposed bonds include these key elements, Wiggers said:

• Remodel/renovation/additions to all facilities, including shelters and infrastructure upgrades.

• Expand Early Childhood (preschool) at all elementary schools to keep in neighborhoods.

• Move sixth grade to Great Bend Middle School to allow space for preschool at the elementary schools.

• Use the updated recommendations of the Steering Committee to be part of the updated Master Plan.

Steering Committee recommendations

The steering committee recommendations are:

• Recommend a revised bond election in late spring based on community feedback.

• Reduce the bond cost to under $9.50 a month on an $87,000 home. Wiggers said the community found the example of an $87,000 home, the median value of a Great Bend home, to be confusing and he recommended using round figures such as $100,00 homes going forward. However, he said the new proposal reduces the cost even more than the suggested amount.

• Remove the GBMS turf field from the bond. The district might consider capital outlay funds for this project.

• Remove the Transportation/Maintenance/Grounds Building from the bond. Again, this might be a capital outlay project.

• Remove the GBMS Gym from the bond.

• Include suggested Great Bend High School PAC additions and GBHS renovation work in a separate question.

• Provide more detailed information to the public on each issue separately.

• Explain more thoroughly about preschools, moving sixth graders, plans for the Washington Education Center, all infrastructure, and controlled entrances.

More information about what is proposed will be included in a future Great Bend Tribune article. The school board has not taken any action to approve another bond election but expects to address the topic again in January.

Meeting at a glance:

Here’s a brief look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting.

• Terry Wiggers, senior vice president of SJCF Architecture, shared information from last week’s community presentation and from campaign survey results regarding a spring bond election.

• The board approved next year’s Program of Studies Book for Great Bend High School.

• Purchase of computers for teachers was approved. The board purchased 33 desktop units and 133 laptops for a total cost of $171,523.50.

• The board approved a minor revision to its policy on investment of funds. 

• Superintendent Khris Thexton discussed GBHS Memorial Stadium lighting and provided details of a cost estimate for an energy-efficient upgrade. The board approved the purchase of Musco-brand lighting for $139,000 and awarded the installation contract to the contractor that submitted the lowest quote, for $19,400. There were quotes from three local contractors.

• Assistant Superintendent John Popp and Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser gave reports on luncheon conversations with staff; migrant programs; the trauma-informed district committee; a Visible Learning Course being offered for professional development next summer; Learning Walks; and upcoming Visible Learning in-service; and personnel.

• Kelsey LaRocco was hired as a special education teacher in Hoisington.

• The superintendent’s report included USD 428 Foundation mini-grants, future projects, recent gifts to the school district, and the bills and financial reports.

• The board met in executive session for 20 minutes to discuss an individual employee’s performance.