Greg Schwartz is running for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education as a community member.
Schwartz is a Hays native who graduated from Fort Hays State University and Washburn Law School. He and a partner, Carol Park, recently opened their own law office.
He and his wife, Christy, have three children ages 14, 11 and 9.
Schwartz, who was first elected to the board in 2003, isn’t on the board because of his children. They attend private school, but Schwartz attended USD 489 schools.
That “means a lot. It’s my alma mater. I’m not just looking at this for the few years my kids are in school, I’m looking at it from a community aspect,” he said. “What does the community need in our buildings, not today but 50 years from today going forward? My decision is based on whether I think I can still be useful to the district or to the community. I think I can, and obviously the public will tell us so.”
Though Schwartz voted against the proposal, the recent repurposing of Washington Elementary School has some concerned about choice and maintaining neighborhood schools.
“If you look at the numbers and geographical maps of where the populations are from at each individual school, we have buildings in neighborhoods but they aren’t representative of the neighborhood that they’re in,” Schwartz said.
Smaller class sizes also are a frequent topic.
“We just don’t have money to do that,” he said.
The board has been looking for increased revenue and ways to cut costs such as pay-to-participate for several years.
Schwartz said he’s talked to parents with children in traveling sports about the often-recited concern that it will reduce fundraising.
Most said they would continue fundraising, he said.
He compared it to all-day kindergarten. The state funds only half-day kindergarten.
“The majority of the board agree that all-day kindergarten is so important that we’re not going to get rid of all-day kindergarten,” Schwartz said.
Last year, the board voted to charge a $150 fee for it.
“I was against that. I still am. That’s a $357,000 cost to the district,” Schwartz said. “Sports is about half a million. I’m not here proposing we get rid of sports. That’s just not where I’m at, but those are the costs. But we charge a fee for all-day kindergarten. Studies show how important all-day kindergarten is, sports, too.”
Schwartz advocates making budget decisions including fees and cuts at one time.
“When you piecemeal things, if you run the technology first and get that approved, and then try to figure out how you’re going to provide for your infrastructure and heating and air and all those things, well now you’re set because you’ve already earmarked that money for the next three, four, five years,” Schwartz said.
Approximately 87 percent of the total budget goes for salaries and benefits, and cuts have been made in the remaining 13 percent.
“We’ve cut it so much that the only way we can increase that portion of it is through raising fees which cuts against the whole concept of free education,” he said.
Schwartz said the board has started to work on salaries and benefits.
“We’ve converted administrators from 10-month contracts to 12-month contracts. That’s not a pay cut, but that means they’re doing more work for the same pay.”
This year, the board will save $65,000 on two positions that “were really overpaid,” Schwartz said, according to Randy Gustafson’s recommendations.
“Our finance director was (paid) about $125,000. We’re down to $75,000; there’s $50,000 right there,” Schwartz said. “Our administrative assistant (to the superintendent) was (paid) I believe in the $55,000, $58,000 range, and now is in the $40,000 (range), so there’s another $15,000 going forward.”
Schwartz is an proponent of long-range planning.
A bond is needed, but a “$100 million bond is unlikely,” he said.
The board likely will take a “hard look” at a bond between July and December this year.
The school district doesn’t have the ability to raise sales tax, “but city or county could (pass one) for us. We would be much smarter to pass a 1-cent sales tax for the length of time for a bond.”
Rather than coming from local property taxes, a sales tax also is paid by people outside the city.
“I don’t complain about it if we go to Kansas City shopping. It’s just the cost of doing business there,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz has experience on the board and brings “knowledge and history. The volume of information we deal with in a year, or even a term, is amazing. I don’t think that a board member becomes very adept at what we deal with until probably their first term in office. So you’re looking at four years for comfort with the budget and all the facets we do.”