McPHERSON—Next Tuesday, June 8, voters who reside within the boundaries of McPherson Public Schools will be asked to consider a proposed $112.8 million bond. Advance voting is already underway at the McPherson County Courthouse and will continue until noon on Monday, June 7.
The proposed bond includes renovations and updates to all of the current schools in McPherson as well as the construction of a new middle school for seventh and eighth grade students on the grounds of McPherson High School. The district has said this proposal addresses all of the facility needs for the district. It will also allow for safety improvements, including secure entrances at all elementary schools.
“We tasked the visioningcommittee with solutions to address all of our facility needs,” Superintendent Shiloh
Vincent said. “This solution does that. It addresses facility needs and prepares them to have schools that are sustainable for decades in the future.”
The visioning committee, a group of teachers, students and community members, created the proposal through a
series of meetings. It was then presented to the board of education. Two board of education members, Dr. Kim Janzen and Dale Patrick, were not in favor of the proposed bond. Janzen expressed in board meetings on March 8 and March 11 her concerns with the proposed project. Those include traffic and parking concerns in the area of the
high school and middle school and the additional expenses the district will incur with the construction of a new
building. Janzen expressed several time her desire to maintain an efficient district, utilizing funds wisely and
in a way which would allow the district to increase educator salaries in a competitive manner.
“I agree we need a bond,” Janzen said. “I agree we need significant facility updates. But I don’t think this proposal is a suitable solution for what I think we need.”
Patrick also expressed concerns about the traffic situation and limited parking which would be available at the high
school and middle school site. He also had concerns about the additional expenses and the efficiency of the district.
Patrick, like Janzen, believes a bond is needed and improvements and updates need to be made but said he isn’t convinced this is a good long-term plan.
In response to concerns raised about traffic, the district completed a traffic study. The traffic study will be presented to the board of education on June 2, just six days prior to the election.
When voters go to the polls on June 8, they will be asked to consider two questions. The first question regards the
bond itself. The second question is in regards to extending the half-cent city sales tax for 30 years. The city, in an effort to partner with the district, will provide the proceeds of the half-cent sales tax to the district to assist with the bond. Using current sales tax numbers, the half-cent tax would generate approximately $1.7 million a year or close to $48 million over the course of the 28 years it would be in effect.
Proponents of the bond have cited Liberal as an example of how these types of partnerships have worked well. In
Liberal, the city sales tax generated more money than anticipated, and their bond was paid off early.
However, other districts have recently passed smaller bonds, some with shorter terms and not using sales tax. Some, like Maize, have even passed bonds with no property tax increases.
Maize passed a $108.2 million bond in May of 2019 with a zero increase in taxes. Moundridge, after two
failed bond attempts, passed a bond for $14.88 million in February of 2019. Additionally, Andover High School,
which opened in the Fall of 2020, was constructed for $61.9 million, less than the $92 million allocated for the McPherson High School and Middle School site in the current proposed bond. Both Inman and Newton
have recently had failed bond attempts.
If the bond passes, the design phase will begin quickly and will include several stages. Construction would begin during the summer of 2023. The USD-418 Board of Education entered into a contract with DLR on
July 22, 2019. The contract indicates that if the bond fails, the two parties agree to use DLR for
two more bond elections at no additional cost to the district. Therefore, the district and DLR would be able to immediately go back to the drawing board to work on a second proposed bond if the first bond fails.