The Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education took time Monday to look at reasons why voters said “no” in September to bond proposals totaling nearly $45 million, and to wonder if a different bond question could be successful next spring. Terry Wiggers from SJCF Architecture attended the meeting and presented information gleaned from a post-election survey.
As of Monday, 415 people had responded to the survey which can be found on the district website, www.GreatBendSchools.net, under the heading “Bond” in the menu.
“We wanted to see if we could try and find out what it as that voters didn’t like about the previous bond plan, and what objections they had, what suggestions they have,” he said. “So one of the first questions was, ‘did you vote?’ The second question was, ‘did you vote yes or no?’ We made sure they knew it was anonymous.”
Of the 409 responses as of Oct. 9, 208 were from patrons who voted “yes,” 157 were from patrons who voted “no” and 44 were from people who didn’t vote or didn’t answer that question.
To the question, “In your opinion, why didn’t the bond issue pass?” the most common answer was the cost or increase in taxes. Next frequent was that voters did not agree with one or more pieces of the plan.
• Asking for too much all at once.
• Bad timing due to economic and City tax increase two weeks before the election.
• Grouped too much into one question.
• Unnecessary improvements in the plan.
• The cost is too high.
“I had a number of people that apparently were ‘yes’ voters that were concerned about how much information was out there that was believed but it was from non-participants who didn’t have all the facts. So I think one of the things if we go back and do another election, we’re going to be more diligent ... really making sure that the facts are available to everybody, including the ones that don’t have social media,” he said.
Storm shelters were something most people thought should be part of the bond issue. Controlled entrances were also mostly supported.
“There were some comments like, ‘we’ve already got cameras as control enough.’ Some people don’t understand the different point of the sally port entrance and the cameras, where you still have to let them into the hallways with your current system.”
About 65% of those who responded to the survey said they support the expansion of preschool to all elementary schools in the district. But while 85% of those who voted for the bond issue supported preschools, 65% who voted against the bond issue do not support the expansion of preschools. The breakdown was similar for those who do or do not support moving the sixth grade from the elementary schools to the middle school to make room for elementary preschool classrooms.
Whether they voted yes or no, a majority of people said they would support improving student drop-off/pickup and parking at Lincoln, Jefferson, Riley and the Middle School. Several said they’d also do that for Eisenhower School, which was not part of the proposal.
People were split about 50/50 on whether they would support relocating the current transportation/maintenance/grounds building to land next to the District Education Center as part of the bond issue. Among those who voted “no” in the election, about 75 percent said they would NOT support that. Some would prefer that project be done with capital outlay funds.
The majority of those who voted “no” (70% in this survey) also said they would not support replacing the 100-year-old portion of Washington Early Ed Center with a new addition to be used for Special Education Services and the Parent-Teacher Resource Center. The numbers were reversed for those who voted for the bond issue — about 75% of them would support that.
One question 60-90% of the people survey agreed on: they would not support installing an all-weather turf field to be used for PE classes, practices and an outdoor classroom at the Middle School.
To the survey question, “Would you support a revised spring bond issue for facility improvements, if it included changes resulting from this community feedback and survey?” more than 80% said “yes.”
The survey reminded people that the cost of Question One of the bond plan presented to voters on Sept. 5 was $41.75 million, requiring a 13.5 mill net increase over the next 20 years. That represents a tax increase of $11.32 per month on an $87,500 home (the median valuation of a home for the district). They were asked, “in your opinion, do you believe this is a reasonable amount to pay for school improvement?” Most who voted for the question said “yes” and most who voted against it said “no.” For those who said no, the next question was “what comparable monthly amount would you support for Question 1?" With choices ranging from $11 a month to $8 per month, 30 percent chose the lowest amount ($8), but the majority said “other,” and those answers included $5 a month or less, Wiggers said.
The community steering committee, which became the campaign committee, continues to meet and share thoughts on a possible bond plan with changes. The task for that group, and the school board, will involve doing a better job next time of explaining the plan, Wiggers said.
“I think there’s a lot of people who have no idea how much education has changed, especially in the last five to 10 years with technology and how it’s taught and everything, so I think we probably need to work hard to get that to be a universal message out there,” Wiggers said. “And what – what is that happy number (for the cost)? We’ll probably wrestle with that a little bit.”
The next election should be a walk-in election rather than repeat the mail-ballot election of Sept. 5, Wiggers concluded. And, “anywhere money can be saved would make it more likely to pass.”
Board members weighed in on feedback they’ve gotten from the public.
“There was too much grouped into one question,” Deanna Essmiller said. “The voters were getting on us about trying to sell everything.”
There were complaints that people didn’t understand the plan or didn’t have enough information, but board members agreed that people had plenty of opportunities to have their questions answered.
“People have to avail themselves of that information,” board member Cheryl Rugan said.
“Some people were unaware that there was even a bond issue coming up,” board member Jacquie Disque said.
Meeting at a glance
Here’s a brief look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 meeting:
• Approved the Title VI B and Early Childhood Flow-Through Budget Application. The Title VI B and ECH budget covers salaries for licensed special education staff salaries. The 2019-2020 application amounts to $983,822 for Title VI B pass-through funds ($10,194 higher than the prior year) and $40,670 for ECH ($30 lower than the prior year).
• Discussed the SJCF Survey. See adjacent story.
• Chose the delegate and alternate to vote at the Kansas Association of School Boards annual conference, Dec. 6-8 at Wichita.
• Announced an open position for a USD 428 representative on the Great Bend Recreation Commission Board. The appointment will be made at the Nov. 11 school board meeting.
• Approved the Local Consolidated Plan Allocation, which amounts to $1,105,916, or $37,138 less than last year.
• Heard the assistant superintendent/curriculum report, which included information on the next textbook adoptions. A Social Studies pilot is moving forward with an anticipated curriculum adoption in the spring. A proposal for Healthy Living will come to the board this fall. This year, the district will look into adoptions of Art, and Career and Technical Education.
• Heard the superintendent’s report which included information on the Great Bend Reading Initiative Kick Off, National High School Activities Month, Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, Free and Reduced Lunch update and internet security update.
• Grants applications and contributions were approved.
• An executive session was held to discuss actions affecting a student.