Voters in Hays turned down a second bond proposal for improvement and additions to Hays schools by an apparent overwhelming margin in Tuesday’s election.
In Tuesday night’s unofficial results from Ellis County, the no votes for the $78.5 million bond outweighed the yes votes 61 percent to 39 percent.
Ballots postmarked on Tuesday that arrive before Friday still can be counted, but the gap between the yes and no votes is more than 1,200.
Lance Bickle, president of the Hays USD 489 school board, said it was disappointing to see the results considering the amount of work that was put into the campaign, but he’s eager to get more information from the community to try again.
Bickle also won his campaign for re-election to the board Tuesday night.
He, USD 489 Superintendent John Thissen and board member-elect Mike Walker said the board should allow a little time before the district starts the process again, but had different thoughts on how soon that should be.
“I think we need to go back, sit down and look through things and talk about this, reach out to community people,” Bickle said.
Thissen said this morning he thinks that process likely won’t start next week, but should begin sooner than later.
“It’s still going to be a year out before you put something together” to present to the public, he said.
Most likely, the process will be the same as with this proposal, Thissen said, with surveys and a committee similar to the Vision Team that developed the bond proposal.
Walker said this morning he thinks it might be best to wait longer
“I personally think we might need to wait until another year, maybe a couple years to let things cool down, re-evaluate, then come back,” he said.
He said he does understand waiting could drive up the potential costs of another project through inflation, though.
“I do believe in talking to experts, so we can talk to the financial folks. Will it be detrimental to wait two or three years or will it be beneficial? Not sure. We need to talk to the experts,” he said.
“I do think the board will come back with a plan to improve facilities. I don’t think this issue is going to go away,” he said.
Sophia Rose-Young, who was the third top vote-getter in Tuesday's board election, also agreed an evaluation process is needed before proceeding.
“As far as the bond, the community made their (unofficial) vote. Board members must continue to listen to community members and evaluate what works best until a solution is reached,” she said in an emailed statement.
The bond proposal would have called for construction of two new elementary schools and other new construction and renovations to buildings in the district. The $78.5 million bond would have increased property taxes on a $150,000 house by $16.43 per month.
Any future bond plan will be looked over by new members on the board, as Young and Walker will fill two spots come January after successful campaigns.
Bickle leads the unofficial results with 3,266 votes as of Tuesday night, with Walker at 2,726 and Young at 2,583. There were a total of 1,607 write-in votes, but the total of those that went to Kevin Daniels will not be known until votes are canvassed by the Ellis County Commission on Monday.
All three candidates said they were impressed with the voter turnout, which stands at 39 percent as of Tuesday night, and are looking forward to continuing the board's work on school improvements.
"I feel we made a lot of progress in the last four years and have a lot left to do and I look forward to doing that," Bickle said.
He said he's become familiar with Walker over the last year through his attendance at meetings and involvement with school activities and looked forward to getting to know Young better.
"As with any time you go through and get new people on the board, it's always an interesting time. Four years into that, there's new things that come out all the time.
"We have a good group that will obviously assist them and get them up to speed as soon as possible, and they'll bring some additional fresh ideas to the table," Bickle said.
"I want to thank everyone who put their trust in me and voted," Young said. "I look forward to serving four years as a school board member, listening to the community’s desires for the district, and representing the community the best I can.
"What got me through the craziness of this election was repetition of the phrase, 'This isn’t about me, it is about the kids,' and I predict it will be a phrase I continue to repeat while sitting at the board table," she said.
Walker said in addition to re-evaluating the bond proposal, he anticipates being involved in a committee addressing the district’s health insurance. He said while he understood the need to save money, he thinks there could have been more communication between the board and the teachers.
“Looking as a person just observing in the meetings, I did understand the need to shift; however, my concern is that it was rushed. There could have been another year’s worth of analysis and working with the teachers,” he said.