The Hays USD 489 Board of Education put the brakes on a $94 million bond election in April.
The board declined at Monday night’s meeting to introduce a resolution to have a bond election April 4 and submit an application to the Kansas State Board of Education.
Instead, they will move forward gathering signatures of at least 10 percent of the qualified city voters on a petition supporting a half-cent city sales tax.
Once the signatures have been verified, and the petition approved by the county election officer, the petition will go to the Hays City Commission for its approval.
“They can’t say no to putting it on a general election. They could say no to putting it on a special election,” said Dustin Avey, Piper Jaffray.
The date of the election will depend on the timing of the petition, but it likely would be June at the earliest.
“We have discussed that we feel every bit of that $94 million was needed,” Sarah Rankin said. “However, after receiving very public and very vehement opposition at the (Hays) City Commission meeting, not just for the sales tax proposal, but for the bond in general, we have been hearing a lot from community members about the $94 million.”
Rankin said the board might need to look at redefining its objectives in moving the bond forward.
Since there hasn’t been a school district bond in 24 years, the board needs to educate the community on its civic responsibilities to fund schools like it does streets and other city needs, she said.
BOE President Lance Bickle said he’s heard from constituents, too, and asked if the board wanted to look at prioritizing the projects to cut costs.
BOE Vice President Josh Waddell said he’s heard those concerns, too.
“We’re looking at a potential mass loss of jobs right now as Kansas crude dips below $30 (a barrel). Three or four months ago, the climate was different,” Waddell said. “It could get substantially worse than we are right now.”
“This is our community, and sometimes we have to do things because it’s the right thing to do,” BOE member Paul Adams said.
Cost will be more if the board waits, he said.
“I don’t think there’s any bells and whistles in that (bond proposal),” BOE member Mandy Fox said. “I think the education piece is critical.”
The board agreed to move forward with the sales tax petition process and leave the bond amount at $94 million. The community volunteer and town hall meetings will continue as scheduled.
The board entered into a 20-minute executive session with Superintendent Dean Katt and BOE Attorney Bill Jeter for personnel and negotiations.