Feb 13, 2020 2:15 PM

Ellis school board votes to establish bond exploration committee

Posted Feb 13, 2020 2:15 PM

By JAMES BELL
Hays Post

ELLIS — The Ellis USD 388 Board of Education unanimously voted Monday to approve the creation of a bond exploration committee, signaling the board's support of putting a bond issue on the ballot in the near future.

At last month’s meeting, the board heard from the Docking Institute that suggested the community would support a bond issue.

“It’s going to be great to have a committee on the outside that is going to be pushing this,” said board president Jared Schiel.

Former board member Mike Keller was chosen to lead the committee.

“One of the main reasons he didn’t run was that he said he wanted to help with this committee,” Schiel said. “I can’t think of a better volunteer to lead this thing on the outside.”

One of Keller’s goals was to see a bond issue passed after two previous bond issues failed.

“I ran on a bond agenda, though I know I was seen as an anti-bond guy,” Keller said. “I saw what was going to happen and the fact that the second one was going to fail hard, it frustrated me.”

“I made the decision to not be the guy that just says ‘this isn’t right.’ I was going to be the guy that was going to do something about it,” Keller said.

The last bond proposal totaled $9 million. This time, the board is looking at a bond issue at or under $5 million.

“It’s really a responsible bond,” Schiel said. “That’s where the second one was the biggest failure was maybe we didn’t look at the numbers tight enough and realize that this town wasn’t ready for that big of a bond at that point.”

Jian Sun, assistant director of the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute, shares bond issue survey results with the Ellis School Board USD 388 at their January meeting.
Jian Sun, assistant director of the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute, shares bond issue survey results with the Ellis School Board USD 388 at their January meeting.

The Docking Institute survey suggested a majority of voters would support a bond issue up to $4 million and almost half would support $5 million.

“I want this to be a viable community and we have to start with the schools,” Keller said. “Now that we have our Docking study and we have a direction, I can go out there and help explain the position, knowing the inside, and being on the outside.

“I will advocate for this. I will fight for this,” he added.

The committee will be made up of 12 people including school administrators, building maintenance heads, board members and three community members.

An exploration committee during the previous bond issue had around 30 people, which the board felt was too many to create a cohesive list of district needs.

“Way too many,” Keller said.

Schiel hopes all members of the community will be heard as the committee forms.

“We had our naysayers and we have some of the ones that have been here since the beginning, I would love to get one of those people on there,” he said.

The decision to create the committee signifies the board’s desire to move ahead with a bond issue in the near future and the belief the community will support the issue.

“After I read the survey and started to get some feedback from community members, some that weren’t really supportive prior are now more open about it, so I want to commend you all for getting the process to where it is,” said board member Marty Hollern.

Although the bond issue amount is likely to be smaller than previous bond issues, board member Randy Honas said continuing without any bond is harming the district.

“You have got to start somewhere,” Honas said. “You have to get something done at some point at time. We’ve got some things that we can’t just keep putting Band-Aids on.”

After the exploratory committee is up and running smaller committees will be established to look in-depth into specific district concerns.