Sep 06, 2022

🎙 Voters to decide Ellis USD 388 bond issue Thursday

Posted Sep 06, 2022 8:30 PM

Hays Post

ELLIS — On Thursday, voters will head to the polls to decide on a $4.55 million bond issue that would be used for improvements at the Ellis Jr./Senior High School and Washington Elementary.

The vote will mark the third bond attempt since successfully passing a $1.9 million bond in 1974.

A $10 million proposal was voted down in 2013. A $9 million proposal was voted down a year later.

Organizers say now is the time to pass a bond issue and are using lessons from previous attempts in hopes of wider community support.

The bond would be used to make significant renovations and system replacements in the schools and is needed after decades of relying on the district’s capital outlay budget for facility updates for decades, according to Care 4 Kids committee treasurer and former member of the USD 388 Board of Education, Mike Keller.

He said that much of that budget was used to pay debt acquired years ago to replace the HVAC system in Ellis High.

“It hamstrung us on our capital outlay. It basically took half of the money available,” Keller said. “So it was really hard to keep up with maintenance with making that big payment.”

While he said the facilities had been maintained as well as possible, the lack of funding and years of use have taken a toll.

“We've done a fantastic job of maintaining that facility,” Keller said of the High School. “When you walk in there, and you see our gym, or our lobby or our classrooms, they do look nice. Our staff is to be commended for keeping that facility in top-notch condition.

“But that doesn't mean there aren't needs,” he continued.

Among the projects planned if the bond is successful are a complete renovation of the High School science labs, as well as exterior door replacement, a partial roof replacement and the addition of a secure entry.

Washington Elementary would also see a complete HVAC replacement, electrical system upgrades, interior improvements and a partial roof replacement.

The planned repairs were decided upon during a process that included a Fort Hays State University Docking Institute survey that outlined the amount the community would support in a bond issue.

Keller said they worked to keep the proposal within that amount.

“Basically, I like to tell people when they say what's going on with this bond, I say, you spoke we listened,” he said. “We're not trying for anything that we think is going to put this in jeopardy, because these are pieces that we need.”

 Impact to taxpayers

If the proposed $4.55 million bond is approved residents within the district would pay additional property taxes for the 15-year term, but impact to property owners may be more significant if the measure fails, Keller said.

“If it does fail, one of the impacts will be it will cost us it will cost us kids in our district, it'll cost us, staff," he said. "I think I read a USA Today article and it said school district quality is one of the most important factors home buyers consider when looking for a place to live, particularly for a new or expecting parent."

And a good school district can greatly increase a child's chance of success, Keller said.

For residential property owners for every $100,000 in assessed value, the bond would increase taxes by $11.26 monthly. For commercial property, the increase would be $24.48.

While the increased cost will affect taxpayers, he said the potential damage to the community could be greater.

“If it fails, the property owners who didn't want to pay any more taxes I guess win in the short run, point blank,” Keller said. “But at what cost? We can’t keep patching the system together with a wing and a prayer.”

He said as a former member of the board of education and worked to find what was needed and this bond issue reflects those needs.

Variable pricing for construction materials also creates a sense of urgency for the bond attempt.

"That was one of the reasons we decided to have a special election," Keller said." We wanted to move the timeline up with some of the uncertainty in our economy right now. If we can get this moved up and get it passed in September, it's about a six-month window for them to do the design process, and put it out to bids."

And he said no one knows what's going to happen with interest rates, but the last bond passed in the middle of a recession, during the oil crisis of that era.

"So I don't think that's a great excuse to vote against this right now," Keller said. "I think now's the time to invest in our kids in our future version of our town."

For more information about the USD 388 Bond Issue visit the USD 388 website,