The Riley County school district is trying again to get voters to approve bond money to improve and enlarge its schools. We hope the lessons learned from previous bond initiatives will help this measure succeed where the others failed.
USD 378 is planning a $15 million bond to repair and improve the district’s elementary and high school buildings. The school board approved a proposal from administrators last month. Now, the proposal will go to the state Board of Education. If approved, the question can go on the November ballot.
We’re not sure how likely it is for the state board to approve the project, but Riley County voters in the past haven’t been supportive of bond plans.
They rejected a $12.3 million plan in 2013 and then a $22.5 million plan in 2016. In fact, the district hasn’t passed a bond issue there since 1999.
What has changed since then, administrators said, is that the district has sought feedback and listened to residents. They’re conducting surveys and putting out more information.
That’s good. Also important is that the new proposal, at $7 million less than the last one, seems to be less focused on big additions and athletics facilities. The 2013 plan included a new middle school wing, high school gym, community weight and fitness room, wrestling area, storm shelter, cafeteria and 400-seat auditorium with lobby.
This current plan still includes a new gym, but it focuses on basic needs like replacing modular elementary classrooms and improving security, for example. That seems like a prudent use of tax dollars. Roofing and HVAC systems are probably less fun to talk about than a state-of-the-art weight room, but they’re important for learning.
The district hasn’t said how much it would need to raise the mill levy to cover the cost of the bond, but so far it seems worthwhile.
We hope the state will respond favorably to what appears to be a practical, moderate bond proposal.