NEWTON — The ballots are in, mailed back and dropped off with the Harvey County election office, and the people of the Newton school district have spoken. With a margin of 4,040-3,359, the critical question No. 1 was voted down. Of 13,726 ballots mailed out, 7,413 were returned (with 54 percent of registered voters in USD 373 making their voice heard).

Voters had not just one, but two questions to vote on this time around. The first asked voters for approval of a bond project that would tackle updates and maintenance work to all district buildings (with a heavy focus on Newton High School) at a total cost of $61,320,000. The second question asked voters to make a decision on the construction of an entirely new K-6 building — with three sections for each grade level to allow for growth — south of town for a cost of $24,420,000.

A majority of the work outlined in the first bond issue was to go towards renovating the high school — including the fine arts area, commons, kitchen, pool and more, along with security/technology and HVAC upgrades — as well as constructing a new auxiliary gym/storm shelter and science wing.

Similar maintenance and security/technology work was slated to be done at both middle school buildings, while the bond project also included additional classroom space for Santa Fe 5/6 Center and a storm shelter for Chisholm Middle School.

For the Newton elementary schools, the bond included security/technology upgrades (including secure entries) at all locations while all buildings would also see storm shelter upgrades — for Slate Creek and Walton Rural Life Center — or the construction of entirely new shelters. All elementary schools would also have HVAC work done and Walton would be the recipient of improvements to handicap accessibility. Window/door replacement and exterior wall repairs at Walton were also included as part of the first bond question, along with an additional $300,000 to address immediate needs to aging infrastructure at the building.

Question one represented a 7.44 mill increase, which would have increased taxes on a $100,000 home by $7.13 on a monthly basis (or $85.56 annually), while question two had a 3.5 mill increase associated with it — which would have increased taxes on the same home by $3.35 per month or $40.20 annually. If both issues had passed, it would have been a nearly 11 mill increase and an increase in annual taxes of nearly $126 on a $100,000 home.

Had both questions been successful, Walton Rural Life Center would have been moved to 10 acres on the south side of Newton. Voters rejected question No. 2 4,986 to 2,388 — though the failure of the first bond queston made that vote a moot point.