By Mary Clarkin
MOUNDRIDGE - Ballots should appear in the mailboxes of Moundridge USD 423 voters this week.
Ballots must be back in the McPherson County Clerk’s office by noon Feb. 26, according to the McPherson County Clerk staff. Postage for the return mailing is included, so voters will not have to supply a stamp, staff said.
Moundridge USD voters rejected a $23.8 million bond issue in 2016 and a second one, smaller but also over $20 million, in 2017.
The new proposal costs less, uses area contractors, and addresses Greer gym - three issues USD 423 patrons said they wanted, according to school district officials.
School board member Dwight Goering said he’s “optimistic, but it still has to pass.”
The ballot contains two questions. USD 423 Superintendent George Leary emphasized that it’s not an either-or choice - voters should vote on both questions.
Question 1 proposes a $14,590, 20-year bond issue for renovations and improvements at the Moundridge Elementary School totaling $2.2 million and renovations and upgrades at the Moundridge Middle/High School amounting to $6,984,319. A new auxiliary gym at the middle/high school would cost an additional $5,405,681. The elementary school’s upgrades would address security and energy efficiency and make improvements to the roof, windows, and parking lot. The middle/high school’s upgrades include a storm shelter and locker rooms.
Question 2 will pass only if voters also approve Question 1. Question 2 proposes $295,000 to improve Greer gym, including replacing windows and renovating restrooms and making them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Alloy Architecture, Wichita, and Vogts Construction Co., Newton, are working on the project.
Question 1 would boost USD 423’s mill levy by 19 mills, according to Leary. Question 2 would add 1.25 mills but that levy for Greer would end after five years.
The 19 mill levy’s impact on the annual property tax bill for a $50,000 home would be an additional $109.25; on a $100,000 home, an additional $218.50; on a $150,000 home, $327.75 more. The commercial property tax impact of a 19-mill increase would be an additional $237.50 on a $50,000 business; $475 on a $100,000 business; and $712.50 for a $150,000 business.
The tax impact of a 19 mill hike on 160 acres of dry cropland would be an extra $217.06 yearly and an additional $318.20 on 160 acres of irrigated land.
Leary pointed out that the Moundridge school district has a lower mill levy than similar districts in the area. For example, Moundridge’s current 47.75 mills are lower than tax rates in school districts for Haven, Buhler, Inman, McPherson, Sterling, Hesston, and Halstead. Canton-Galva’s tax rate, by comparison, is about 20 mills higher than the rate for the Moundridge school district, according to Moundridge USD 423.
Even if the bond issues passes, Leary noted, Moundridge USD property owners still will have a low overall tax bill, including school, city, and county taxes, compared to those property owners in neighboring school districts.
The school district uses Greer as a secondary gym and when the school is not using it, the gym is available for the Moundridge Recreation Commission, according to Recreation Director Vicky Kessler.
The Greer gym upgrades appear in a separate question on the ballot, Kessler said, because there is an option of making the property part of a Public Building Commission in the future. If it was part of the 20-year bond issue, she said, they would have to wait 20 years before changing ownership from the school district to a Public Building Commission, she said.
Kessler thinks the first community meeting where the bond issue was described received a better reaction than previous public meetings for earlier bond issues.
The questions, she said, were along the line of “‘when we go forward’” and “‘how will this be,’” she said. “I didn’t feel like it was an attack mode. It was ‘tell me more,’” she said.
Previous plans called for relocating the elementary school to create a single campus. That is not in this ballot proposal, Leary said. People said, “‘Don’t mix the young kids with the older kids,’” Leary explained.
“We’re not getting those same negative-type questions,” Leary said of the reaction to this third bond proposal.
School board member Goering said Leary has done “a tremendous job” informing the public about the ballot. The community meetings continue in the weeks leading up to the election. This week, a presentation is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday, at Pine Village Wellness Center, Moundridge.
The school district will be responsible for the expense of the special election. Leary said the two recent elections cost less than $3,000 each.
Over 1,500 McPherson County voters live in USD 423, and roughly 170 voters in Harvey County are within the school district’s boundary, too.