Who needs to know about the school bond?

Who needs to know about the school bond?

Editorial – Deb Hadachek
Belleville Telescope editor

On September 26 at 8 p.m. at East Elementary, the USD 109 board of education will host a public meeting to drill down on the details of a proposed $12 to $16 million school bond issue.

You should attend this meeting if:

  • You’ve already decided you are in favor a bond issue.
  • You’ve already decided you are against a bond issue.
  • You have kids in school.
  • You don’t have kids in school.
  • You never had kids at all.
  • You own 1,000 acres of irrigated farmland.
  • You own a $10,000 house.
  • You rent an apartment.
  • You live in a tent.
  • You own a business.
  • You are an employee of a business.
  • You are unemployed, retired, or never worked a day in your life.
  • You loved school.
  • You hated school.
  • You played sports, sang in the choir, excelled in industrial arts, were a nerd, or a jock, barely graduated or have an advanced degree.
  • You should attend this meeting regardless of whether you are in the middle of harvest, can’t stand long meetings and dislike every member of the school board, haven’t been in a school building the last 15 years, or your grandmother died and her funeral is the next morning.

The upcoming bond election will set the course of education in the Republic County school district for the next 25 years or more.

I have sat at school board meetings and watched some very good, dedicated conscientious school board members volunteer hours, days, weeks, months and years of their time to try to assess what educational needs are today and in the future and ask for exactly what is needed, and not one bit more.

Not one member on the USD 109 school board takes this decision lightly.

Neither should you.

A ‘25-year school plan’

USD 109 board agonizes over building needs versus burden to taxpayers; public meeting September 26

By Deb Hadachek
Belleville Telescope editor

“We all know what we need. What’s holding us back in our heart of hearts is what we think will pass.”

That was how Republic County USD 109 board president Clay Siemsen summed up a nearly two-hour discussion Monday night as board members agonized over a proposed bond issue to add classrooms to Republic County Jr./Sr. High and East Elementary.

The bonds could cost patrons $12 to $16 million over the next 20 years, depending on whether a multipurpose room/wrestling gym is added to the package. Board members debated whether the entire proposal should be put before patrons, or whether voters should have the opportunity to approve only part of the construction. The first meeting to unveil the proposal to the public is set for Tuesday, September 26 at 8 p.m. at the East Elementary gym.

“I feel like we should go with the base plan and get that passed,” said Loisann Brown, Republic. “I am fearful -I don’t think we can afford to not pass the base plan.”

But board member Daryl Rieke argued that the base plan does not meet the future needs of the district, and space will still be lacking at the high school without the multipurpose rooms and gym.

“I see us running out of space at the high school (in the future),” he said. “I don’t think we should present a plan that doesn’t take care of the basics.”

If the board moves ahead with a planned mail ballot vote, patrons will be asked to decide in February whether to approve the package.

Two question problem

Superintendent Mike Couch told the board that staff and community members think the two question ballot the board approved last month will confuse voters.

Board members Clay Aurand, Belleville, and Kevin Milner, Narka, said they believe the entire project will be voted down if the multi purpose room package is included in a single question.

“I believe that what I want, and what I think will happen are two different things,” said Aurand.  “What’s our Plan B if the bond issue fails?”

Board members noted that additions of classrooms and remodeling at the high school are minimal in the base plan, but a new roof, heating and air conditioning and electrical system are costly items in that project.

Couch said that USD 109 has gained 50 students in the last five years, and current birth rates indicate that “steady growth” will continue.

“50 students–that’s two classrooms right there,” he said. He estimated class sizes will average 39 to 41 students per class.

“We have good industry that we didn’t use to have here,” he said.

Couch also said that last week’s lockdown of the school buildings showed him the need for safe rooms proposed in the project are just as important during a threat of violence as they are a tornado.

May reconsider

Board members said they may reconsider whether to put the entire bond issue before voters in one question rather than two after feedback from the public meeting.

Board member Brian McCartney said he is afraid shaping the scope of the project on feedback from the public will just “muddy the waters more” for the board.

But Siemsen said ultimately it is the board who has studied the proposals in detail, and it is the board’s responsibility to take those needs to the public.

“We’re making decisions right now that will last a minimum of 25 years,” he said. “We’re juggling the students’ needs and the staff needs and the taxpayer’s dollars.

“It’s not supposed to be easy.”