The quality of schools is consistently a top priority for young families considering a move to a new community. However, when you look at what we have spent on schools in Hays over the last 25 to 30 years, it’s obvious why our schools are lagging behind other communities our size. The problem isn’t that the district hasn’t maintained our buildings well. It’s that we haven’t passed a bond in over 25 years.

During the last bond campaign, we talked a lot about deferred maintenance in a way that made it sound like the district had failed to maintain our buildings, but that grossly oversimplifies the issue. Expecting the school district to build new facilities or make major renovations to existing buildings without a bond is like expecting the average family to buy a home without a mortgage. There’s no school district in the state that’s swimming in money, and there’s no way for districts to save their capital outlay dollars for a project like building a new elementary school.

Part of the Piper Jaffray financial information shows Hays is the only district our size to not have invested in a bond since 1990. On the one hand, this reflects the frugal nature of our community, but it also explains why we need to do such extensive work on our schools now. Next to Hays, McPherson and Great Bend have spent the least, but both of them have spent over $20 million on their schools, and most districts have spent much closer to $100 million and many have bond projects in the works. Just a few examples:

• Newton — $58,210,000.

• Dodge City — $93,473,000.

• Hutchinson — $96,300,000.

• Garden City — $117,800,000.

• Liberal — $151,215,000.

Investing in our school infrastructure has a huge impact on our ability to compete for population, industry and retail, and this comparison shows how far behind we are as a district.

Fortunately, the $78.5 million in this bond goes a long way toward resolving these inequities. This plan accomplishes a lot with every dollar, and even if we’ve lagged behind other districts over the past 30 years, we can make up for lost time by passing this bond Nov. 7.

 Chris Dinkel,