USD 373 has continued to march on with the bond issue. It seems they have changed at least one important item, they have talked of moving the potential vote to September.
I still feel they should put it on the November general ballot. Why waste $15,000 on a special election that a tiny fraction of the population will vote on? They want to separate it because they know they will pack the polls with the people who stand to benefit the most: district employees. November makes the most sense, it gives the pro-bond board members the chance to own it and run on it. Also you have a much larger portion of the electorate showing up at the polls to voice their opinion. Every meeting I have been at has a common drumbeat of the board wanting as many voices and as much input as possible from the citizens, so why short change them at the ballot box?
The bond is still a fluid proposal beginning with a range of $30 to 80 million. Now it is $50 to 75 million. All options have adding square feet of facilities. Why the rush to add building space? Right now we are in the target range of 75 to 85 ercent of space utilization in the district with a student population that hasn’t changed much since the 1980’s. Have student needs changed much since then? Perhaps teaching styles have changed but does more square footage really change test scores much? How many square feet did we add at the last bond issue and have we seen any gains on overall student performance?
The biggest constant line item in all the bonds is the high school. It is slated for a complete remodel at a cost of $38 million. Upon inquiring where the number came from I was given a long convoluted answer that boiled down to: square footage x $$$ per square foot. There is no readily available plan for what will be done except a ‘total remodel’. Last week I asked for something from the architect about how they came up with the numbers and no one in the district has it. At the time of writing this column it is still elusive. I would think if you are asking for $38 million of the taxpayers’ money you should be able to tell them exactly what they are going to get with it.
I feel the plans are left vague so they can’t be picked apart. A couple years ago when this was first started I looked at the plans for the high school remodel and found $6 million for the heating and air. After a couple of hours of research and three phone calls I found we could have a state of the art system installed for $1 million. But the architect at the time couldn’t give me an answer why my number was no good to them.
Just like the last time the district came to us for $30 million, they want the money first then will figure out how to spend it after they have it. This is complete foolishness. Need a new science lab? Get a figure for it. Need new paint and carpet? Get a number for it. The administration is still sticking by the old saying ‘this is how it is done’. Well I know in the real world where I have to answer to bankers and be profitable I have to show a real plan with real result expectations before I can get $1. Why? The bankers can’t just raise taxes to pay for it. Should we expect any less from a government entity wanting to raise our tax burden 12 to 15 mills? FYI this is almost 10 percent of what we pay now.
This is what happens when a taxing entity has a monopoly on something. They lose touch with reality when it comes to dollars and common sense. The district already spends $13,000 or more per student per year. I send my children to a private school that costs $7,000 per student to run. If my school needs something for the facility they get a price for it and then put it out there to raise funds. They can’t just hit the pocket book of every property owner in the district. They make due with less because they can.
What do you need to do? Call your board members and tell them to get a real plan together. Not just some big dollar plan made up by an architect. They should also invite other architects to look at the information we have paid for so far and get other ideas of what to do. Any free market company would be happy to offer their opinion if it meant they will potentially get a few million in fees down the road.
— Jason Mitchell is a member of the leadership team of the Harvey County Republican Party. He can be reached by phone at (316) 680- 6456 or email jsmitch73@ hotmail.com.