Attendees at the bond town hall at O’Loughlin Elementary School on Wednesday evening for the USD 489 proposed $94 million bond shared their concerns and asked questions of Mike Morley, chair of the bond committee, and Superintendent Dean Katt.
One man wanted to know why a new gym was needed at Hays High.
“There are space issues when they have larger events there like tournaments, awards nights, things like that. All the parents can’t fit in there,” Morley said.
A woman asked about using the Munjor school building rather than building new classrooms.
“If you’re taking them (special education students) out of their classrooms, making them their own classrooms, why can’t they go to Munjor?”
Katt said the building is used for an Early Childhood Connections program, “and we’re not taking kids out of the regular ed classroom. A lot of the areas that you see are functional classrooms, office space for the psychologists, PT (physical therapy, OT (occupational therapy), all of those special services.”
Money dominated much of the discussion.
With a city sales tax proposed as a way to help pay for the improvements, one person said it isn’t fair people in Ellis County don’t have a vote.
“This is the third time that’s happened, and every time you guys pass it, we have to suck it up,” he said. “We go to Walmart and buy groceries, or buy anything in town, (and) we don’t have a voice in it.”
Another person was worried about ongoing costs.
“Where is the money going to come from seven, eight, nine, ten years down the road if your maintenance budget is tight now to take care of the problems that come up,” an audience member said. “As this new project, if it passes, starts aging, where’s that money going to come from?”
“The intent is if you fix these things once properly, you don’t have to come back and revisit plumbing every two or three years,” Morley said.
Katt said it’s a budgeting issue. A lot of the money from the $1.7 million capital outlay budget for repairs, “this bond issue will address a lot of those things that we have to keep going back and fixing.”
“I understand that, but the state doesn’t have any money, we’re broke,” the audience member said. “You want sales tax here, and there’s a lot of people in this room that’s retired. Our income doesn’t increase, so take the mill levy on your house, that might be $6,000, $8,000 by the time this bond’s paid off going into your house. There’s a lot of people that don’t have money to go ahead and put towards this. Yeah we need this stuff, but we gotta pay for it.”
“I think it’s appalling that there’s, by the numbers you’ve presented, there’s better than $18 million worth of stuff that’s been ignored,” another person said.
Katt said some things like the HVAC systems have been maintained, but have outlived their usefulness.
As stewards of taxpayers dollars and buildings, the board of education and school district has a responsibility to maintain them by prioritizing the budget, the man said.
Katt asked how he would suggest doing that.
“Anything not directly related to education of children is extra,” the man said.
Other audience members said that would include things like extracurricular activities and some bus routes.
One woman summed up her reasons for questioning the bond issue.
“Everyone wants the children of this community to be educated properly. People just want to make sure every dollar is spent appropriately.”