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USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

Bernie_G,

Thank you for your support. Our next meeting is the July 9th Board meeting, 6:00 P.M. at the THS West Campus Library. We are still gathering information and reviewing material. We will be working closely with city officials, county officials, and citizens to get the best value and best solution to this pressing need. I assure you that the bond is not $30 million, we are being very diligent to protect the interests of our patrons and students. I encourage anyone interested in this issue to attend the board meeting on the 9th of July. It is a priviledge to serve this community and I thank you for the opportunity.

Sincerely,

Dan Hopkins

June 19, 2012 at 9:16 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

gotongie,
You are correct that it isn't ideal in my opinion. Initially it was my selection and another board member’s that we consider option B. We discussed it at the meeting as well but could not find the funds in the budget to select this option. We are continuing to look at option B and researching how we can meet the operating costs.

The impasse I have with option B, building an intermediate school for grades 3-5, is that we do not have room in the budget to hire additional support staff. We looked at having one principle and two assistant principles for the buildings in option B and other staffing configurations. Over the past 3 years we've cut over 2 million from our budget as a result of funding reductions from Topeka. We have reduced energy consumption by over 30% with our partnership with Trane and we still spend a tremendous amount of money on utility usage. Our operating funds will not support an additional building unless we increase class sizes. We are nearing the recommended limit there having to shift teachers sometimes between grades to accommodate their size. The board directed the superintendent to focus on option C; I can assure you he is also relooking the other options as we prepare for the next meeting. To keep the current elementary school operating over the next couple of years will require over 700,000 dollars to fix the restrooms, make the building ADA compliant, and fix some other issues.

If option C is selected and approved I would insist on the district utilizing a “schools within a school concept” to separate the grade levels into smaller learning communities. At present the design is not complete but recommended capabilities we are looking at are the following: a media center, main library, computer labs, large multipurpose room and cafeteria, gymnasium, activity rooms and multiple storm safe areas. Not all physical education is required to occur in the gymnasium and we are planning for that with activity rooms, not as big or expensive as multiple gymnasiums but multipurpose in nature. The cafeteria will be designed with the large student numbers taken into account. We don't have a completed plan, we are working on it and it is subject to change.

Your input and participation as is the entire communities is very important to the success of this project. It takes a village to educate a child. Thank you for your informed observations, they are very helpful and will help to make this project work for the entire community. Coffeyville (USD 454) has the largest elementary school in Kansas at almost 1000 enrollment. Many in their community like it, some do not. We'll have more information to release as we near our next meeting. I assure you I will continue to dialogue with the community here, via email: if you want to discuss it with me face to face I'll be happy to meet you and anyone at one of our school buildings.

Regards,

Dan Hopkins

June 15, 2012 at 11:34 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

Don H., I sympathize with your concerns about the district asking for more money. It is always tough to ask for money and tougher to give it up. I was not on the board during the bond for the middle school. I would have recommended a different location and did give my opinion to members of the board on what I thought was a good plan. Eight (8) years have passed since that election in 2004. From 2004 to 2009 we saw tremendous growth that leveled off in 2010-12. If the new elementary school bond is approved, construction is begun, and the new school occupied, it will have been over ten (10) years since the middle school bond election. It seems like only a couple of years ago but the time has slipped by very quickly. The only other time the board has asked for money in that span was the last bond that was rejected by voters. The polling indicated that voters did not want to spend money on the high school/administration complex and repairing the elementary school. The preponderance of voters mentioned that they would support a new building, but only an elementary school.

When the new middle school bond was passed the district was still paying on the bond from the other middle school building that is now the High School west campus. It is common in growing districts to have more than one open bond. In larger districts they may have several bonds open.

The proposed location of the new elementary school would be on the same tract of land the current middle school sits upon, 80 acres. This would reduce the locations that buses are required to load and unload students. It will consolidate some of our support activities and we’ll be able to share buildings, parking lots and equipment as necessary for major events.

Unfortunately time has crept up on us quietly and like a thief. It has been eight (8) years since the middle school bond election; it will be ten years when the new elementary school is built. Our elementary school is overcrowded, it is not fully ADA compliant, and we have security issues as well. It is time to build a new school that will carry us through another 10 or 15 years.

As we get further into the planning and gather more information we may be able to negotiate lower costs, lower rates and such. The preliminary estimate is for an 18 million dollar bond, we will work hard to try to further reduce that burden.
I hope I have provided you with some answers?
Regards,
Dan Hopkins

June 15, 2012 at 4:20 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

Bernie,
Good question, we are trying to keep our buildings limited to three. Right now we count the high school east and west buildings as one administrative group. The middle school and the elementary school are each one building with their own administrative staff. A second elementary school would increase the support tail of the district 25%. We can't afford to pay another principle, staff, food service, janitorial, maintenance, utilities, etc. I personally like the idea, wish we could afford it, but our operating budget is too tight to expand it or grow our staff. We are trying to increase student capacity to alleviate overcrowding and provide for future growth, continue to provide a great education, and maintain our current staff levels. The busing issue is a matter of state funding. We are fortunate to have a great transportation coordinator and bus drivers that have made the program work. Thank you for your input and I hope you will stay engaged in the discussion.
Regards,
Dan Hopkins

June 15, 2012 at 2:05 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

The small additions affect the budget differently, particularly years later. The additions to the elementary school and high school have required maintenance to the respective roofs at different times costing us extra money. It is cheaper to have all of it done at once than to piece meal it. A couple of years ago it cost us hundreds of thousands for a portion of the elementary school roof, this year its an older wing of the high school roof. In a couple years its another part of the high school. These costs add up and stress the general fund. We are limited in what we can keep in the contingency reserve fund so every year it is a balancing act to budget repairs. By law we have to be very careful how we transfer money from one fund to another and how we spend capital outlay funds. The elementary school is serviceable but it is a money pit, overcrowded, and frustrates many citizens around 8:00 and 3:00 daily. To build additions on to our existing structures would also require a bond to fund it. Again, we'd have multiple open bonds. I hope you will remain open to the plan and make a decision when the information gathered is complete.
Thank you.

June 15, 2012 at 1:50 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

And finally, the bond issue will not be 30 million. The bond issue if approved by the board for voters to decide will be roughly 18 million.

June 14, 2012 at 11:38 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

5) I completely agree, education starts with educators and we have a great staff. Our families, grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles are all part of the process. It takes a village to educate a child. Our schools consistently achieve excellence in the standardized assessments and more important our students are doing well when they attend post secondary education or enter the workforce. We are addressing the bullying concerns; we have just updated our District Policies and synchronized those policies with our student handbooks. We have had assemblies, guest speakers and inculcated the antibullying message in our curriculum.

In summary, I believe Bernie_G stated it best, do we commit to 22 million today or do we use temporary fixes costing millions to get us 4-6 years into the future then commit to pay 50 or 60 million to finally fix the problem. If the latter occurs then this board will be cursed for not leading the district into the 21st century. I wish this project had an easy button but for every option one group likes another dislikes and so on. We have put together what we believe is the best solution for the district, students, staff and taxpayers. We are still working on the plan and taking into consideration inputs daily to ensure that we get it to the voters accurate, honest and complete. I would like to reiterate that I do not speak for the Board of Education or USD 464, I am speaking as a citizen and as an individual board member. If you have questions I encourage you to contact your board member.

Thank you for your involvement in this process and for providing valuable feedback. I hope I was able to answer some of your questions and provide you with why I support this project.
Regards,
Dan Hopkins

June 14, 2012 at 10:51 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

12345, allow me to explain my decision and provide feedback for each of your questions:

1) Moving one or two grades to the middle school creates some unique problems regarding supervision, curriculum and staff development. It also just delays the real problem, lack of adequate facilities. The budget is already stressed and we are committed to repairing the roof at the high school. Those costs are nearly half a million dollars in the next couple of years. We have some other major expenses coming up that will continue to stress our budget. Some of the projects in the future include the asphalt parking lot at the HS, restrooms at the elementary school, upgrades at the elementary school to gain compliance with the Americans with disabilities act, and scheduled work on the old wing of the high school. We may have to include the purchase of more modular trailers for TES to include infrastructure to support those units. We cannot raise the budget any further; school boards can add up to 30% of their general fund by using the local option budget. Ours has been near max for some time as a result of cuts in state aid from Topeka. It was designed that way to give the state more control over local spending. If the state were to increase our general fund then we might be able to work some other options but we are not expecting increases from Topeka in the foreseeable future.

2) We’ve been approached by many in the community that want to utilize the elementary building as a community center/city hall/ etc. We are exploring those options and the possible costs associated with that option. You are probably right in that it may be cost prohibitive.

3) Enrollment has remained steady, give or take a few students. We have had several students move in after 20 September which were not counted. This year’s kindergarten pre-enrollment is indicating a large class. We also use projections from the local governments regarding growth. The Leavenworth County Development Corporation has issued some numbers regarding growth at the Legends complex, new jobs, and families moving to the area. It is more an art than a science in my opinion but they have been relatively accurate. Even if we stay steady we are over capacity by a 100 students in a facility that requires a lot of attention.

4) Showing the mil levy of other communities is another important piece of information regarding our current situation. Having a low mil levy is attractive to small businesses wanting to relocate. Not all information provided is advantageous to the district’s proposal but I believe it to be my duty to provide all the information I have access to. It also shows that the board has been active over the years making do with our facilities and we have not been building for the sake of building.

Continued:

June 14, 2012 at 10:42 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

USD 464 board looking at bond issue for $30 million elementary school

At the Board of Education meeting the option accepted for the Superintendent to pursue further planning was to build a new elementary school. The cost of the project was spread across several areas, construction, roads, infrastructure, and design costs totaling 30 million dollars. 2-3 million would be outside the scope of state assistance and would require work with the city regarding special assessments. So we’re looking at 27 million dollars that is part of the states recognized costs, of that, 34% is paid by Kansas. That leaves us a bond of 18 million. Our current tax levy for education is one of the lowest in the area, upon approval of the bond our mil levy would move up to be nearly equal to our surrounding districts.

TES is overcrowded and most would agree that that is not in dispute. The dispute is on how we address the issue which will have ramifications for years to come. The staff at TES has done a remarkable job up to this point with finding room for classes, accommodating students with disabilities, and working between buildings to get the curriculum and guidance to the 5th Grade which is in TMS. We have had a class or two in the hallways and lunch scheduling is problematic, but the staff has done its best to minimize the impact upon our students.

The old school is a good building and has many years of service left. We have been looking into different uses and how it can best serve the community. Our city needs additional space and storage for records; we have a recreation commission that needs space for its offices and activities. Our own district offices could relocate. There are other city and county agencies that may benefit by this. We could share the costs and save a considerable amount of money. If in the future, 8-10 years from now we need more room we can rehabilitate the old school to extend its life another couple of years to provide space.

As a member of the board I assure you that this is not an easy decision, that the current economic climate has been considered as well as the impact. The best stewardship of our tax dollars basically demands a tough decision be made that will benefit this community. I agree with the patron named Bernie that looking past next month or next year is the wisest thing to do. It would be a nightmare if we tried to wait another four years and interest rates, costs, and state assistance were all inflated to twice our current projected costs but that is a distinct possibility.

Over the past three years this board has overseen the reduction of spending by over two million dollars. We have held our mil levy steady over that time and have worked with the staff to save where savings could be found. I assure you we have not taken this decision lightly and we were unanimous in understanding the cost savings of building what we “NEED” now and saving the tax payer millions in the process.
Thank you for allowing me to serve,

Dan Hopkins

June 14, 2012 at 3:18 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Tonganoxie council member, former administrator facing off in Leavenworth County Commission race

“NO, NO, NO”? It is a matter of perspective. Some would say that Bixby's philosophy is just YES, YES, and YES. YES to fiscal responsibility, YES to good stewardship of the taxpayers resources, and YES to smaller government. And NO isn't always a negative when making decisions. Clockwork writes NO, NO, NO based upon what I perceive as a philosophical bias that is of the minority in Leavenworth County. Leavenworth is a predominately conservative county where YES, YES, YES is perceived as a conservative value when viewed as I have written above. So instead of going back and forth over nothing, why not ask why either is running for office. Is it to serve or is it for self? Based upon recent history, Bixby serves on the city council for little or no compensation. Mike is a great guy, but he served as the city administrator for a significant salary. Just facts so far, we don’t know why Mike was let go but we know that it was discussed in closed session. There were some budget issues and mistakes. The council had lost confidence in him and ended their relationship, it happens. Dennis has lived here a long time. How long has Mike lived in Leavenworth county? I thought he lived in Eudora? Now I don’t agree with the statement that he is running because of “sour grapes”. That is a personal attack and not productive toward good discussion. I would have to give the edge to Dennis at this point.

June 5, 2012 at 3:45 p.m. ( | suggest removal )