McPherson USD 418 Superintendent Randy Watson led a public informational meeting regarding the school’s upcoming bond issue Monday.
Watson explained the $13.25 million bond’s projects and also fielded questions from the public.
First he explained the project goals. These goals are to: enhance education needs identified through the district’s Citizenship, College and Career readiness initiative, maintain and upgrade existing facilities for the next 20 years, and maintain or decrease the current bond and interest tax rate for district citizens.
"I think the board feels they’re giving you need and not wants," Watson said. "The public will have to decide whether that’s true or not."
If approved, the new bond would replace a bond from the 1990s, which is due to expire. Although this means the public would pay more in taxes than if neither bond would be issued, Watson stressed this would cost less than letting the maintenance of the buildings get out of hand.
The new bond would result in a lower bond and interest mill levy, dipping from the current amount of 6.497 to an estimated 5.5 mills.
Watson also detailed the bond projects.
At McPherson High School, a production welding and machining shop will be added.
"Part of our (Citizenship, College and Career readiness) initiative is to make sure very kid is ready for post- secondary education," Watson said. "We’re really trying to work on giving them an option when they leave high school."
Watson said there is a heavy need for production welding and machinists in central Kansas, which are good paying jobs that only require a certificate the school could offer with these new facilities. Because of a law passed last year, these students could graduate with the certificate at no cost to them.
"We think that would be a big benefit for our economy locally and for kids that are not planning on going for a four-year baccalaureate in school."
Science classrooms at the high school that have settled severely due to the drought would also be repaired and upgraded.
At Lincoln and Roosevelt Elementary schools, a number of changes will be made, which include a new cafeteria and warming kitchen.
The gymnasium space in these buildings is currently used as both a cafeteria and an instructional space for physical education classes. This conflict interferes with instructional time for the physical education teachers who visit multiple sites, and in turn, also affects the schedules of other classrooms. The bond would eliminate this problem.
At Washington Elementary School, the 1950s addition would be rebuilt to become more energy efficient, increase instructional space and expand parking. Rebuilding was chosen as opposed to renovation due to cost effectiveness.
Page 2 of 2 - Several roofing projects also would be pursued in the bond issue.
One audience member noted their surprise that $13.25 million would cover all these projects.
"That’s what we’ve been told this will cost," Watson said, noting some aspects could change, such as assessed valuation. "We’re trying to be conservative, and we think the price tag has given us pretty good cushion to maybe even go under bid."
Watson said a lot of the work would be done in response to forward thinking. It is anticipated enrollment will increase in the next 20 years as the community expands. Watson said the board did not want to have to return to the public and ask for more space or money.
If the bond is not passed, Watson said the science room and roof projects would still take place due to necessity, but all other projects would not.
The district has not heard much response from the public, whether good or bad. One audience member did say, however, they didn’t think the information was getting out to the public. Watson said the district has relied on traditional media and word-of-mouth to inform local residents.
The superintendent has heard of some misconceptions about the bond’s projects. One is that the dirt moving by North High Drive is for a stadium. Watson said the district is planting grass, and stressed there are no athletic projects being funded by the bond issue.
The vote for the bond issue will be April 2. Individuals must be registered by March 12 to vote.
Watson said although he hopes many will vote, he does not expect a large turnout since the vote will be during a city/school board election.
A second public informational meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 26 at the McPherson High School theater.
Until then, information may be obtained by visiting the district’s website.