Voters to consider $112.8 million bond

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By Jessie Wagoner

 

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles exploring the proposed $112.8 million bond being presented to voters by McPherson Public Schools. 

 

McPHERSON—Registered voters residing within the boundaries of McPherson Public Schools will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed $112.8 million bond on June 8. 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. 

 

How we got here

 

The USD-418 Board of Education made the decision to begin exploring a bond proposal in 2019. The process began with an assessment of the district facilities and the creation of a long-term plan to align the needs of the district. After the assessments were completed, a group of community members, teachers and students were called upon to serve as the visioning committee. The visioning committee met nine times, conducted a community survey and visited with the City of McPherson about partnering on the project. Their recommendations resulted in the bond scope presented currently.

The recommendations of the visioning committee and proposed bond was presented to the board of education as a multi-decade plan for the district. When it was time for the board to vote on the proposed project, not all board members were in favor of the proposal. Board Members Dale Patrick and Dr. Kim Janzen expressed their concerns regarding the proposal, and both voted against the plan. 

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 times 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. 

Though two board members expressed concerns with the proposal and voted against it, the remainder of the board voted in support of the proposal. With the majority of the board expressing support for the proposal, it will now be put to community members to vote and make a final decision. 

 

What is included

 

The $112.8 million bond addresses needs at every school in the district. All of the elementary schools will receive secure entrances, updated HVAC, limited renovations, including carpet, and the creation of collaborative spaces. The current middle school building will be fully renovated into a fifth and sixth grade center, as well as housing the district offices and central kitchen. There will be a new middle school constructed for seventh and eighth grade students next to the high school. The high school will have updates and renovations throughout, including the preservation of the historic roundhouse and performing arts center. A stadium, including two football fields and tracks, will be constructed on the high school/middle school site. Estimated costs are $7.6 million for the elementary schools, $13.2 million for the middle school site and $92 million for the middle and high school site.

The proposed $112.8 million bond is a 30-year bond and will incur an additional $89 million in interest over the course of the 30-year repayment period. The district still has $10 million in bond repayments to be made on the 2013 bond, which will be paid off in 2033. 

 

City sales tax question

 

In addition to considering the proposed bond, voters are being asked to consider a sales tax question in relation to the bond. The City of McPherson has agreed to partner with the school district in making the bond possible. The city currently collects a 1% sales tax, and voters are being asked to consider diverting those funds to the school district. It would not result in a sales tax increase, however it would extend the current sales tax for the 30 years of the proposed bond. 

Mayor Tom Brown and City Commissioners Gary Mehl and Larry Weins have expressed their support for the city sales tax question being posed to voters to consider on June 8, as well. Brown said it is important for the city to partner with the district on the project to help encourage growth in the community. Using current sales tax numbers, the 1% 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. 

With the sales tax included, the total mill levy will increase 17.885 mills. Without the sales tax included, the bond would result in a mill increase of 23.385 mills. Both the bond proposal and the sales tax question will have to be approved for either project to move forward. 

 

Gathering more information

 

A website has been created to provide additional information about the bond and can be viewed at www.usd418bond.com. The site includes videos and answers to frequently asked questions. Shiloh Vincent, USD-418 superintendent, said the district will be scheduling open houses and tours for community members to educate them about the project. 

“We’re in the process of scheduling a series of community open houses and tours, which will be organized to remain safe for all, and are planning to offer a virtual option, as well,” Vincent said. “Dates and details for these events will be finalized and publicized this week.” 

Additionally, community members can contact board members with questions or comments. All board members’ contact information is included on the district website at https://www.mcpherson.com/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=1673724&type=d&pREC_ID=878957. 

 

Who can vote

 

Registered voters living within the boundaries of McPherson Public Schools can vote on the proposed bond. The election will be held on June 8. You can register to vote online at https://www.kdor.ks.gov/apps/voterreg/default.aspx with a drivers license, or you can complete a voter registration form at the McPherson County Clerk’s Office. 

The last bond election was held in 2013. Voter turnout for that bond election was low, with only 1,761 votes cast. It passed 1,435 to 326.

 

We will explore the proposed bond in more detail in future articles. If you have specific questions about the bond you would like to see addressed, please email jessie@mcphersonweeklynews.com.

Bond fast facts

  • $112.8 million bond results in $89 million in interest. 
  • Proposal adds 80,000 square feet of building space to maintain.
  • Includes a 28-year, 1% sales tax increase. 
  • $14.16 per month in additional property tax for a homeowner whose property is valued at $150,000, approximately $169.92 a year and $5,097.60 over the 30-year bond.