After almost two years of study, preparation and campaigning, the USD 253 Bond Issue passed by a significant margin Tuesday evening with a total of 2,514 votes in favor and 1,450 against.
“We’re extremely grateful for all the support we received from the community,” Emporia Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Case said. “We felt really good about our needs-assessment process and all the involvement we had from all of the stakeholders. I think the fact that our community is very supportive of what we’re doing just validates what that needs committee said. It’s exciting for all our students and staff that attend school here in Emporia.”
The district is scheduling the $78 million bond to be paid over the next 28 years, addressing major areas of need in all area public schools such as safety and security; additions and renovations to academic spaces; a new early childhood learning facility; up-to-date building systems; and projects to improve parking and traffic flow.
“I think the schools are kind of the core of our community,” Case said. “Making such an investment in our schools is vital to the community’s success. The things we’re really looking at to make a difference are some of the safety and security additions. We want to make sure our kids are safe, and that means giving them access to things like high-wind shelters and other improvements. A thing I’m personally very excited about is the new early learning center. Going out and looking at other types of those centers over the past month has really got us interested in all the possibilities that exist with facilities being designed with students in mind.”
Although initial projections called for a 2.95 mill increase in order to cover the cost of the bond issue, updated financial numbers — which were released in October by Piper Jaffray financial services — showed a significantly-reduced rate. The new increase of .5 mills — which can be attributed in part to the addition of funds in the overall tax roll from the expiration of tax incentives at the Hills Pet Nutrition plant — comes to a payment of 48 cents per month for residents of a $100,000 home. The bond will add $5.76 per year in taxes for the same house in addition to what the resident is currently paying. Commercial property tax will total $12.50 per year for a $100,000 property, while agricultural property tax will amount to a 1 cent annual cost per acre of grassland and 4 cents annual cost per acre of dry crop land.
“Tonight, we’re going to take a deep breath and say, ‘Our two years of hard work has paid off,’” Case said. “Tomorrow, we’ll begin the process of working with all the organizations involved, our bond counsel and all other entities we work with to develop a plan for moving forward. Everyone would like to see things done by tomorrow, but it will have to take a while. Our goal is to step back and take a look at the big picture to put together a purposeful schedule that helps us really line out what’s next.”
Those curious about the calculations involved in the new projections can access a full report including interest rates, assessed valuations, state aid figures and the history of the district’s mill levy at go.boarddocs.com/ks/usd253/board.nsf/public under the Oct. 9 meeting, section 8A. More information on the bond itself can also be found at www.usd253.org/bond.
“There’s a large number of stakeholders that were very involved in the entire process whether it was through attending meetings; sharing their questions, comments and concerns; and working hard to make sure everyone was informed about the bond issue,” Case said. “There are a lot of people that will probably go unnamed that really had a part in making this a success. I appreciate their efforts. I think exciting times are not only ahead for Emporia schools, but for the Emporia community itself.”