USD 373 is spending more tax dollars to hire a contractor to find out why the recent $62 milloin plus bond issue failed. The following concerns/issues may have contributed to the bond's failure and are offered to USD 373 administrators and Board of Education free of charge. They are in random order.
* Too much. To my knowledge this is the largest bond issue ever proposed in USD 373. Sixty-two million plus ($62,295) might be appropriate in a thriving city with a growing tax base but not in Newton and not now. Also, too soon after the "Morton" bond issue.
* Another property tax increase. Consecutive property tax increases by Newton and Harvey County on top of large state tax increases. USD 373 will receive $7,198,816.51 (63.139 mils) this year from property taxes. Supporters say the bond issue would increase the mill levy by only eight mills to 71.139. USD 373 is already the largest beneficiary/consumer of our tax dollars. Local property taxes are already higher than every community in neighboring Sedgewick County.
* What about using USD capital outlay funds? Why couldn't many of the items in the bond issue like HVAC improvements, furniture, lockers, "security improvements," etc., be covered by existing USD capital outlay funds?
* No teacher or student buy-in. The USD and BOE did not establish any linkage between bond issue expenditures and student achievement. No student or teacher buy-in was in evidence or publicized prior to the vote. Was this bond issue more for administration back-slapping?
* Low voter turnout. Blame it on Kobach.
* Trivialization of the tax increase. "Only an $8 per month tax increase on a $100K house." What about what we are already paying per year? This amount will probably go up as it varies with your property valuation. How many property valuation decreases have you received lately?
* Underutilization of existing facilities in town. Yet, we bus 120 students out of town to Walton daily. Why so much to fix Walton? How were the costs developed?
* The perception that the bond issue was a resume "accomplishment" builder for USD management and its passage would result in the exit of another superintendent.
* Organized opposition to the bond issue.
* Disregard for changing demographics in the school district. Did the bond planners have accurate data on the aging of district voters? Older voters on "fixed" incomes tend to have more conservative views on taxes.
— Thomas Vavra, Newton