Hays residents received a sixth mailer paid for “by Hays USD 489 to educate patrons” which highlights perceived benefits of the proposed bond issue but does not talk about its significant flaws. 

Flaw 1: The true cost is over $150 million (not $78.5 million as promoted by USD 489). This is because the cost of borrowing money to pay for the improvements is equal, if not greater, than the cost of just the improvements.

Flaw 2: Bond payments are over a period so long that current Hays High School seniors will be grandparents when the bonds are paid off. Combining this with Ellis County already having one of the highest median property taxes in the United States (ranked 711th highest out of the 3,143 nation’s counties), makes one question why this bond is a wise investment.

Flaw 3: Contrary to the message from USD 489, this will not have a positive impact on our community, as it will stifle future economic development through even less new home construction and business development.

Flaw 4: Instead of addressing needed repairs, additional wants (not needs) are part of the bond issue, including the same wish list of unnecessary new buildings and add-ons that go beyond what the community needs.

How did the school district find itself in this situation? For over 25 years, the school board took funds budgeted for routine maintenance and spent them on other items. When this process began in 2012, USD 489 estimated that the cost of all immediate and necessary building repairs was $20 million. Instead of addressing these immediate repairs, the school board decided instead to ask the voters to approve a $94 million bond issue (which failed) and now comes back with a slightly smaller request, which still includes unrelated wants, causing a considerable tax burden.

USD 489’s facilities need significant repairs due to “deferred maintenance,” and the repairs are needed. When considered separately, they are affordable and should be completed immediately. The added list of unrelated projects are items that would be nice to have, but are not critical to providing an excellent education. Including “wants” in the proposed bond issue greatly inflates costs and confuses the public.

I strongly support any bond issue that addresses deferred maintenance first. Once completed, the school board could request a series of smaller targeted bond issues over time to pay for the other items.

Henry Schwaller IV,