Board Meeting


Hays Post

The Hays USD 489 school board heard from the community bond committee on its recommendation for a $143.5 million, 30-year bond at its meeting Monday night.

The board asked questions but is not set to vote on sending the bond to voters until its meeting on Feb. 7. District officials are hoping to bring the bond to a vote in late spring.

The proposed bond includes a new high school, which would include a new auditorium. It would be built to the east of the current high school on land already owned by the district.

Also included in the proposal is

• The middle school moving into the renovated high school
• Hays Middle School being renovated into a new elementary school
• O'Loughlin and Roosevelt elementary schools would be renovated
• Administrative offices and the Westside program would be moved to Wilson
• Rockwell Administration Center and Lincoln Elementary School would be closed

As part of the renovations, any facility issues that were rated a one or two out of four on the district's facility report would be addressed.

If the bond would pass, work on the new high school would likely begin in 2023, with a completion date for the bond work within about three years.

The committee not only outlined the contents of the bond proposal, but options for paying for the bond, why the bond is needed and how the bond would benefit the community as a whole.

As many as 70 people per meeting have been attendance at the committee sessions. Those members have included teachers, administrators, parents and community members. The group gave an estimated 1,300 man hours to developing the proposal that was heard my the board Monday.

Why is the bond needed?

Jeff Crispin, committee member, parent and Hays alumnus, said one of the focuses of the bond is adding more space to accommodate how students learn today. This includes spaces in which students can work collaboratively and complete hands-on projects.

"We want [kids] to have a great experience and be able to go on to the next level, whether it's out into the job market or into a trade school or to a four-year school. We want them to be the best prepared they can be," Crispin said.

DLR Group, the district's architect, graded each school for facility condition and educational environment. No school in the district received a passing grade for educational environment. The highest grade was 56 percent at O'Loughlin.

Most of the district's schools also received F's for facility condition. Hays Middle School scored the highest grade at 70 percent.

Courtesy of USD 489

With the exception of Lincoln Elementary School, all the schools in the district are over capacity with the district expected to grow enrollment.

Board President Tammy Wellbrock said many of the district's buildings were built before special education classes were added. Those students often need more square footage per student than students who are not disabled.

Although the Hays High has held as many as 1,200 students, the capacity numbers were based on how the buildings are used now and how students are learning today, Amber Beverlin of DLR said.

Courtesy of USD 489
Courtesy of USD 489

Board member Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp said classrooms were added to Hays Middle School, but the school had no extension of its hallway space.

"Funneling students through the spaces in the allotted time means we are losing instruction time, as well" she said.

 Crispin said Hays is one of two public 5A districts in the state that has not passed a recent bond issue. Hays is the only district in the Western Athletic Conference District that hasn't passed a recent bond issue.

Districts that have passed bond issues from 1995-2020 are in red. USD 489 is not among them. Courtesy of USD 489
Districts that have passed bond issues from 1995-2020 are in red. USD 489 is not among them. Courtesy of USD 489

Details by building

David Clingan, parent and bond committee member, outlined some of the details that would be included in the new high school, as well as the renovated spaces for the middle school and elementary schools.

USD 489 bond scope HHS. The Helping Hands culinary program is currently located at the Rockwell Administration Center. Courtesy of USD 489
USD 489 bond scope HHS. The Helping Hands culinary program is currently located at the Rockwell Administration Center. Courtesy of USD 489
USD 489 bond scope HMS. Courtesy of USD 489
USD 489 bond scope HMS. Courtesy of USD 489
USD 489 bond scope elementaries. Courtesy of USD 489. The new elementary in the old HMS building would be a four-section elementary. That is four sections of each grade, which is one more classroom per grade than the existing O'Loughlin, Roosevelt and Wilson elementary schools.
USD 489 bond scope Westside, administration. Courtesy of USD 489
USD 489 bond scope Westside, administration. Courtesy of USD 489

RELATED STORY: Westside struggles with facilities; move could be part of bond

Bond cost

Clingan said he has spoken to residents who had misconceptions about the cost of the bond.

USD 489 bond cost. Courtesy of USD 489
USD 489 bond cost. Courtesy of USD 489

It will be up to the board to decide how the bond is funded. If the bond is funded only through property tax, it would cost a taxpayer $35.94 per month on a $200,000 home. That would be $431 per year.

The median home price in Hays is a little more than $150,000. The cost of the bond on a $150,000 home would $26.95 per month, which equals $323 per year.

However, district officials have suggested using a half cent sales tax to reduce the the property tax rate. The use of a sales tax could reduce the property tax to $21.56 per month for a $200,000 home and to $16.17 for the owner of a $150,000 home.

If sales tax is used, the bond would cost an owner of a $200,000 home about $258 per year and the owner of a $150,000 home $194 per year.

The district plans to soon place a property tax calculator on its website, so home owners can calculate their potential tax bill based on both the full property tax and sales tax options.

Clingan said the district could collect almost $40 million from the half -cent sales tax in 10 years.

 Hays has a pull factor of 1.7. What that means is for every dollar in sales tax Hays collects from its residents, it takes in another 70 cents from people who live outside of Hays.

Hays is considered to be a wealthy district by the state. It receives no funding from the state for bond work, whereas many other districts receive state aid to build and renovate schools.

 Liberal school district's bond included a 3/4 cent sales tax. Independence and Goodland also used sales tax to support their most recent bonds.

"We are often going to other communities and supporting their dreams and their growth and their progress," Wellbrock said, "so it is not unnecessarily unheard of for us to do that here."

Hays has one of the lowest mill levies in the state, Dustin Avery, the district's bond counsel, said. Even if the bond passed only using property tax, Hays taxpayers property tax burden would be ranked in the middle among its peers.

Sending a sales tax question to voters, would also require the Hays City Commissions approval.

Benefits to community as a whole

Doug Williams, executive director of Grow Hays, said Hays is in competition with other communities to recruit businesses, people, doctors, professors, teachers, as well as in competition to retain businesses and professionals in our community.

"It's a competitive world we live in, and I can tell you right now, we don't put our best foot forward when it comes to educational facilities," he said.

One of the first things people look at when they move to a new area is the schools, Williams said.

"We do a great job of teaching kids, but we don't make a very good first impression."

Williams urged the community to have confidence in the bond committee, which has invested significant time studying the bond options.

He said not approving a bond will cost the community more than passing a bond.

"What are we going to miss in terms of opportunities that won't come to this community because of the level of our schools, the people who won't come here, whether it by a doctor or professor or retailers?" Williams said.

Recent research indicates 20 million people are poised to migrate from cities in the next 10 years. Hays could take advantage of that migration, he said.

"I know we are going to be in a much better position to do what we want to do in this community and grow if we make the investment in schools," Williams said. "Schools are critical infrastructure, no different than roads or sewer systems or water systems. You have to make those investments sometimes, and we've put it off far too long."

Educator testimony

Jessica Dale, parent, teacher and bond committee member, spoke about some of the needs at HMS, where she is a PE teacher.

Hays Middle School was built before girls sports were widespread. HMS has one small girls locker room. During the spring sports season, about 110 students from the girls track and soccer teams have to dress in the same locker room.

Even during the school day, between PE and weights, 45 to 50 girls can be using the same locker room.

HMS has one gym, which has to accommodate up to 90 students during a class period between girls PE, boys PE and weights. The weight room is up a set of stairs, which means the two students enrolled in that class who are crutches right now can't participate with their class, Dale said.

"I want all of our students to be proud of the space that they live in on a daily basis," Dale said.

Allison Kitchen  is a member of the Hays alumni, parent, committee member and is a past teacher and the district's current MTSS coach.

"I'm seeing tons and tons of amazing things happening in the classrooms in spite of the facilities that teachers are dealing with," she said.

Bruce Rupp, HMS athletic director and assistant principal, said HMS often can't host athletic events because it only has one gym. It can't host track events, because the track is original to school and in very bad repair. When the school does host athletic events, teams have to use the vocal music room to dress because of a lack of locker room space.

Rupp said the community is losing revenue when larger events go to other communities because Hays does not have the facilities to host them. This includes people visiting the community who would spend money on gas, food, shopping and hotels.

"I think our community owes it to ourselves to allow our community to grow and have facilities that our kids can be proud of," he said. "We lose teachers. We lose coaches because we don't have good facilities, and it's going to continue to happen."

Although the enrollment at HMS grew when Kennedy Middle School was closed, the cafeteria has never been enlarged to accommodate the additional students, he added.

"We have put off for so long what should have been done 15 years ago. We can no longer put it off," Rupp said.

Learn more about the Hays USD 489 bond on its website.

Corrected 8 a.m. Wednesday to clarify that Kennedy junior high was closed. The former Felten school was renamed Hays Middle School. Hays Post apologizes for the error.