Developers involved in the two failed bond proposals for Hays USD 489 presented a third plan at Monday night’s school board meeting they said addresses what patrons said they wanted.
The largest part of the $29.4 million plan would essentially create a new, larger Roosevelt Elementary School.
While several board members asked questions to the representatives of the architect, construction manager and finance companies, they didn’t take any action or discuss moving forward with the plan.
Highlights of the plan, as outlined by Amber Beverlin, principal senior architect for DLR Group, include:
• Continuing HVAC upgrades at Hays High School. Last summer, the district installed a new HVAC system for Gym A and B and the wrestling room at a cost of $782,861 from capital outlay funds. The cost to complete all HVAC upgrades at HHS would be $6.7 million.
• The HMS cafeteria, built for 450 students, now accommodates about 700. Expansion would cost $1.3 million.
• Renovation and additions to Roosevelt would total $21.3 million. It would include adding classrooms to change Roosevelt from three classrooms per grade level to five, expanding the kitchen and cafeteria, adding a gymnasium that would double as a storm shelter, and renovating the existing interior. The plan would also allow for improved car and bus traffic flow.
“We’re not just adding on and leaving the rest. It will virtually be a brand-new building,” Beverlin said.
In response to a question from Board President Mandy Fox, Beverlin said the changes at Roosevelt would allow the district to eliminate Lincoln Elementary School, its oldest building.
Roosevelt has good assets to build upon, she said.
“Really the only issue, it didn’t have a storm shelter, so we’re solving that here. All the classrooms that are there now are perfect sized, so we can build on all the great things this building already has,” she said.
The $29.4 million is the total program cost, Preston Moore, business manager of preconstruction services for construction manager Nabholz, said.
“That’s everything you would expect to pay on a project like this, with design fees, and we also have money in there for the things you would buy, your fixtures, furniture and equipment as well as bond fees are in that number,” he said.
Financed over 10 years, the $29.4 million would increase the levy by 11.35 mills. That would add $16.32 a month to the property tax of a $150,000 home — the average home value in the district, said Dustin Avey, senior vice president of finance company Piper Jaffray.
Financed over 15 years, the mill levy would increase by 8.35 and cost the owner of that average home an extra $12 a month.
Avey noted the terms outlined were only to give perspective, as a variety of factors can affect the financing.
“We’ve been very conservative on interest rate assumptions,” he said. “We’re assuming no growth in assessed valuation in future years.”
Board member Paul Adams asked the developers how board members can explain the plan to district patrons.
“How do I convince the voter this is still a viable or a better plan, or what have we done different now? How’s this going to be different to people?” he said.
“We really adjusted a lot of the things we heard at the last bond,” Beverlin said.
The board has twice brought bond proposals to the voters — a $94 million bond in 2016 and $78.5 million in 2017 — that were both rejected in their respective elections. In surveys leading up to the 2017 vote, many said they would support around $10 per month on their property taxes toward a bond. Many were also dissatisfied with the 30-year financing of that plan.
“You have greatly reduced the cost, you are potentially talking about reducing the terms of it, and by default of those two, that means you’re reducing the amount of the taxpayer burden,” she said.
The 2017 bond can be viewed as a “master plan,” she said.
“It really addressed every need you had throughout your entire district. This is taking a piece off of it and saying, ‘We’re going to address what we see as the high priority needs,’ ” she said.
Should the board decide to move forward with this, or any, bond plan, it could happen very quickly, Moore said.
Because USD 489 has not passed a bond in the last 25 years, it is not subject to the cap on school bonds put in place by the state, he said.
Also, because the project amount is less than 14 percent of the assessed valuation, the district also does not require approval from the Kansas Board of Education to proceed with an election, he said.
“Really it comes down to the requirements of the county clerk and how much notice they would need to conduct the elections,” Moore said.
State statute says that will be not less than 60 days.
Board member Lance Bickle asked if the developers recommended a special election. Generally that’s up to the board, they said, but Beverlin pointed out the advantages of a special election, namely that voters could focus on one issue instead of also having to educate themselves about candidates and other questions on the ballot.
A special election would also allow for a mail-in ballot, which could increase voter participation, she said.
In the 2016 bond proposal, about 600 patrons in the district voted, with about 900 in the 2017 question, she said.
“It’s pretty clear that we’ll have to reach outside of your parent group, your vested voters, to reach more people who would want to be voting on this. A mail-in ballot would reach even more people and maybe get that net cast even wider and get more involvement with the vote,” she said.