What the Newton USD 373 school district does now that a $61 million bond issue has failed is relatively unclear — though it could become clearer within a few weeks
The board will have a work session later this month to talk about what the next steps are.
“The needs of the district did not magically disappear because there was a no vote,” said Deb Hamm, superintendent of schools, during a board of education meeting Nov. 12. “The needs are still there.”
The bond failed Nov. 7. The final vote totals, approved by the County Commission Nov. 12, showed 56.6 percent of voters voting against the bond. Totals were 2,766 against, 2,136 in favor.
One of the options could be trying for another bond this spring, though no one on the board nor Hamm would commit to that idea. The district must apply for an approval from the Kansas Board of Education. There could be difficulty there, depending on how many applications are received. With Newton failing at a bond, they could be placed at the bottom of the list.
However, Hamm said there is about $121 million from failed bond issues available on a first-come, first-served basis for the current fiscal year.
“The board could approve a spring election. The board could reapply and there are deadlines that need to be met. That is a pretty quick turnaround,” Hamm said.
To have a spring election a district would have to apply in January — that application must be made no later than 90 days prior to the proposed election. Districts have until June to make use of funds from this fiscal year.
School districts can only have a bond election once per calendar year.
The board is planning a work session Nov. 27 to discuss what the next steps in the process of moving forward after the recent bond failure.
Hamm recommended retaining a company called Patron Insight to do local polling to find out why voters rejected the bond.
“We need to know what they approved of, and maybe where we missed the mark. There were multiple factors that affect this. Everyone at this table could offer a guess,” Hamm told the board.
The cost is about $16,000 to run the survey.
“For credibility sake, we feel like it is better to look at a third party,” Hamm said. “We think people would not think there is an ulterior motive or targeted outcome.”
Hamm is familiar with the firm and has consulted other superintendents to check on the company as well. The intention is to have that work completed with data ready for the new board that will be seated in January.
The bond that failed included about $34 million to renovate Newton High School, $11 million to renovate Walton Elementary and funds for security and storm shelter upgrades to elementary schools.
“We are still reeling from the loss,” Hamm said
The board will make no decisions Nov. 27. There will be a discussion of what the next steps may be and how that fits into the district strategic plan. Incoming board members will be asked to be part of that meeting.
In other business the board:
• Recognized Connie Neal of Slate Creek as a nominee for the Kansas Horizon Award, an award that recognizes first-year teachers.
• Received a donation of $7,000 from the Newton Rotary Club to support an anti-bullying campaign.
• Received a grant-required eligibility update from Head Start.
• Approved an application for Frontline Education.
• Approved a new mascot for the Walton Rural Life Center, Rocky the Ram as voted by students.
• Received an audit report by Knudsen Monroe and Company.
• Accepted a cash donation of $5,000 from Vince Collier to RaileRobotics for competition expenses.
• Accepted a cash donation of $1,000 from the Northridge Elementary PTO to Northridge Elementary for a site license for math software.
• Accepted a donation of more than $500 from the Cosgrove family for the purchase of flexible seating options at Sunset Elementary.
• Accepted a donation of more than $847 from Elbing Grain for expenses for FFA Nationals.
• Approved new course proposals for Newton High School, adding courses offered by Bethel College and Kansas State University.
• Reviewed a proposed 2018-19 course catalog for Newton High School.
• Reviewed a proposed 2018-19 course catalog for Chisholm Middle School.
• Reviewed a proposed technology budget of $2.8 million. The budget for next year is proposed to be the same as what was spent there. The board will be asked to approve a technology budget in December.
• Reviewed an out-of-state trip proposal for a Jobs for America's Graduates program student to attend the 2017 National Student Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. as part of a contingent of Kansas students and teachers. No funding was requested for the trip.