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Frequently Asked Questions

2019 Bond Issue FAQs

What is the scope of the bond?

The upcoming bond is made up of two questions that will help set up USD 373 for the future:

The first question ($61,320,000):

  • An update to Newton High School, including:
    • Safety and security upgrades
    • A science wing addition
    • A remodel of the auditorium and district kitchen
    • A new storm shelter/gym
  • Safety and security at Chisholm Middle School and Santa Fe 5/6 Center
  • Safety and security at the elementary schools
  • Santa Fe and Chisholm deferred maintenance
  • Deferred maintenance at all elementary schools

The second question ($24,420,000) is for a new school south of town. It would be a kindergarten through sixth-grade building.  The building will have three sections so there is room for growth.  The Walton Rural Life Center program will be moved form Walton to the new school.

How will the district pay for this work?

Part of any school district’s bond is paid for by the district’s taxpayers, but currently 27% of new bonds will be paid for through state aid.

NOTE: Existing bond debt is supported by 53% state aid – this is the result of a change in state-level funding.

What is the impact to homeowners and businesses in the district?

If bond question number one ($61,320,000) were to pass, the monthly tax impact would be:


On a $100,000 home: $7.13


On a $100,000 business: $15.50


Per acre/per year for dry land: $.68

Per acre/per year for pasture land: $.10

Per acre/per year for irrigated land: $1.08

If bond question number two ($24,420,000) were to pass, the monthly tax impact would be:


On a $100,000 home: $3.35


On a $100,000 business: $7.29


Per acre/per year for dry land: $.32

Per acre/per year for pasture land: $.05

Per acre/per year for irrigated land: $.51

Do you have to re-register to vote to receive a ballot?

No, as long as you live within our school district boundaries and are registered to vote, you should get a ballot in mid-August.  

Why is now considered an advantageous time for the bond and needed improvements?

A bond is a financial tool available to communities and school districts with tax-exempt finance for public purpose projects.  The best time to borrow is when interest rates are low.   Recent similar bond issues have sold at near 3% and even below.  To be conservative, we estimated 3.5% for Proposition 1 (20 years) and 4% for Proposition 2 (25 years).

The greater benefit today is an offer of additional state aid to help pay both principal and interest on a voted bond.   USD 373 is eligible for 27% state aid currently—a benefit of an estimated $24.59 million on No. 1 and an additional $12.6 million on No. 2.    This program is an effort to create equalization in facilities for Kansas schools by providing additional state aid from taxes collected state-wide to districts that are not as wealthy per pupil as some others in Kansas. 

Why is this bond more expensive?

The board of education and community vision team spent a long time debating the needs of the district.  The overarching reason the cost of the bond didn’t go down is because the need didn’t go down. Instead of putting a bandaid on the problem, they wanted to create a long-term solution.

Additionally, the need for storm shelters at some of our elementary schools was identified after the previous bond attempt. Originally, the team believed they could refit the doors and do other minor work, but instead they will have to build the storm shelters to be up to current FEMA standards.

We also added the deferred maintenance for the HVAC. This was in response to the chiller breaking at NHS. We had to pay for it out of our capital outlay which means less money available to our teachers and classrooms.

Lastly, inflation and other construction costs are increasing by approximately four percent a year, meaning less scope is possible for the same amount of dollars. 

Aren't we still paying for the 1997 bond?

No, the district actually paid off the 1997-98 bond early (September 2017).  Additionally, by refinancing to lower interest rates twice over the term (once in 2007, and again in 2014), the actions of the Board of Education saved district patrons $199,730.00 in interest costs.  

What is our bond debt compared to other districts our size?

We have the lowest bond debt when compared to districts our size in our region. 

Click here to view the 2016-2017 regional rates.

When is the election?

Due to funding, we will not be able to apply or run a bond issue before July 2019, when we will be competing against other districts for funds. If we are accepted, we plan to have an election on September 3, 2019, but we will not be certain of this until approval from the State Board of Education.

Why does the date of the election keep moving? 

The main reason is the state bond cap.  Due to recent changes in state law, there is an annual limit to the funding available for building construction (the “cap” is equal to the amount of bond obligations that roll off the state books each year). We were hoping we could apply for a bond in November and have an election this spring, but because so many school districts passed their bond election, there was no funding available.

Since November, a line in the state statute has been brought to our attention.  It provides that a district that has been denied access to funds could move up in the list of districts that would be approved in the next school year. The hope is that when everyone applies for funds in July, it would move USD 373 toward the front. Additionally, it would show lawmakers that districts may need more funding.

On February 22, 2019, the district made its case to the State Board of Education and requested an Attorney General’s opinion on the statutory interpretation.  We’re currently awaiting word on whether this will happen.

How does the two-question ballot work? 

 There will be two different questions on the ballot. The first question can pass by itself, but the second question needs the first to pass for it to be able to move forward. This was a decision made by the Board of Education.

Why do we need new buildings when we shut down other schools like Washington, Roosevelt, and Lincoln? 

These schools were single-section schools, meaning we could only have one class per grade level. They also were not ADA accessible. We could have maintained those buildings, but they wouldn’t have met today’s educational standards.

So, is it really true that nothing has been done in the science rooms at the high school? 

The old science rooms haven’t had any work done. We did add a few science classrooms with the previous bond, but the original science rooms haven't had any work done since the high school was constructed, aside from occasional maintenance and repairs. For example, the flooring has been changed – probably multiple times since 1973 – but nothing to change or improve the learning environment. 

The science wing will have six classrooms, but we have eight instructors; how will that work?

There is no plan to reduce the science department. The goal is to get the entire department into the same area, and there are options to reconfigure the existing space to accomplish that.

If either question of the bond passes, will Walton close?

No.  If only question one passes, it will not close.  Question one addresses immediate needs at Walton.  It does not fix the long-term problem.  If Q1 and Q2 pass, yes, Walton Elementary closes.  The BOE wants to invest in a new location based upon overall district needs.  This was determined after a great deal of discussion. 

Why is there work being done at Walton if Walton will eventually close if question two passes?

The district will need to use the Walton space until the new school is built, which will take two to three years. In the meantime, minimal dollars will need to be spent to keep students and staff safe and in a quality learning environment.

How will the funding at Walton work?

Walton Rural Life Center will receive warm, safe and dry improvements in both questions 1 & 2, ADA enhancements, security technology, secure entries, storm shelter upgrade, exterior building skin repair and HVAC upgrades. The scope of work is based on prioritizing long term solutions under question 1 for $650,000 or  short term priorities in  question 2 of $350,000 if both questions pass. 

What will happen to the program at the Walton Rural Life Center? 

 The plan is to keep the program in place and move it to the new school south of town.

Does the new elementary school cost include land? 

Land acquisition is not included. The plan is to use capital outlay for that.

Where will the new school be?

It will be located along southwest 24th Street near the Old Main intersection.

Who is going to pay for the development of sewer, water, streets, traffic lights, sidewalks, etc., that may be needed in regards to the new school?

For confidential reasons of the district's negotiations, the land purchase is unnamed.  The district will adhere to the policies of the City of Newton for new development.  If there are costs that are borne by any developer (district), then those costs will be absorbed in our budget or paid by special assessment over a length of time.  There are provisions in the budget for site development and design, as well as construction contingency, to be used for those items.  

How many "rural" students does Walton serve?

As of the last school year, there were thirty-four students coming from within Walton city limits (and the surrounding rural areas). The remaining balance of students come from the city of Newton. 

How would this impact South Breeze?

Since the Walton program will be moved to the new school, students (and their parents) who are currently enrolled or choose to be enrolled at the new school will have the opportunity to attend there. South Breeze’s boundaries currently include areas south of Highway 50. With a new school in that area, the district will begin the process of realigning boundaries to ensure more even enrollments throughout the district. 

What will the school boundaries be like when the new school is built?  

Once the bond passes, there will be two to three years before the new school is actually in use. This will provide the time we need to study where students are currently and where they possibly will be living. It will allow us to work with parents and what questions they have to ensure students have the fewest number of transitions possible. Students in the Walton area will still have top priority. Walton will also still be a choice school, so students from across the district could request to enroll there. 

Why do we need another gym at the high school? 

The new gym will not be just a gym; it will also serve as a storm shelter. This was one of the most cost-effective ways to build a storm shelter for the high school while addressing this important need.

Additionally, we only have one regulation-sized gym at the high school right now. Willis Gym is not regulation-sized, which keeps us from hosting certain sporting events or tournaments. Willis Gym is also not easily accessible and far away from bathrooms and concessions. We also have a growing need for space for our physical education classes during the day.  Our gyms are extremely crowded during those times.

If question 1 is passed, how will Newton High School stay in session during construction?

There will be a phased construction. The science wing will be built first. Students will then be moved to that area. Then the currently empty area will be worked on. This phasing will continue until the project is complete. 

Will the new gym and storm shelter at Newton High impact parking?

Right now, just the drive will need to be relocated, and the goal is to not lose any parking spaces.

What will happen to Willis Gym?

The teachers and building administrators will decide how Willis Gym will be repurposed to best address the needs of the students and teachers.  It could be used as a collaborative space for different classrooms.  It could be used as additional physical education space.  It is best if the people who work in the building every day design how that space will be used.  The design process will begin after the election.

I've heard about the possibility of using glass walls in some locations.  Will that be safe and are we going to actually use these glass walls?

There have been no decisions made about how walls will be constructed.  Using glass is a design feature that many schools use for supervision purposes, particularly in areas used for collaboration.  These decisions will be part of the design phase which will take place after the election.  Student and staff safety is our number one priority.  The architects will work with local law enforcement to ensure that every appropriate measure is in place.  

Will we be adding any student collaboration space?

Yes, providing collaborative learning and working spaces for students is one of the driving educational elements to be considered when designing the reconfigured space at Newton High School.  Emphasis will be placed on spaces for large and small groups, as well as individual learning spaces, for students to work collaboratively.  

Will staff be able to talk to you before you come up with plans? 

Staff will be involved from the beginning of the actual design process (upon bond passage). There will be many months of design and collaboration between the architects and the staff at USD 373, to create the best final product for our students and teachers.

When we talk about safety and security, how does it impact the non-original place (i.e. Brooks Trade Center)?

The Community Vision Team looked at travel time to get from one area of campus to another. The new shelter would be within the estimated travel time needed for students to reach the shelter from anywhere on campus.

Why are we spending so much money on deferred maintenance for our HVAC units?  Did the district just not take care of them?  

Air conditioning and heat was added to our buildings as a part of the 1997 bond projects.  Because of this, all of our HVAC units are toward the end of their life.  We've been properly maintaining these units; they are just old.  This bond will allow us to spread out the replacement of these units so we can avoid this situation in the future. 

What does Newton High School use for a storm shelter now?

They use the commons and hallways in the building.

Why level out the commons at the high school?  

This was discussed at a board meeting. It will be one of the options considered to resolve issues that have been brought to the board as concerns. Concerns including restrooms for Ravenscroft, food delivery from the district kitchen and visibility during lunch. 

Can they even have farm animals south of town?

The Newton City Commission approved a resolution that would allow the rural life center to have farm animals on its grounds. Current city code allows accredited educational institutions to keep farm animals.  

Why has it taken so long for the storm shelters to be addressed?

Some issues had been previously identified, but the district has not had the funding to move forward with any plans, which is why USD 373 has made this component a priority in this bond.  

Where can I see the layout for the new school/high school renovations? 

We want the voices of the teachers and the students and the community in the design process. The design process will take considerable time and money. If we go through the process before, and the bond fails then we will have expended district funds and resources and won’t have the approval of the community to actually follow through.

Will a daycare be a part of the bond updates?

The idea of daycare has been brought up in a couple of settings and is directly related to a pathway at Newton High School (Teaching and Learning). The idea has NOT been approved by the Board of Education and would require that approval before moving forward. The bond includes funds for renovating the classroom space for the existing program, which does include early childhood, and could include an early childhood learning lab to support student learning.  From the district's website: "Courses focus on the careers relating to meeting the needs of children (birth to age five), be they providers in home, community, educational or institutional settings and includes child growth and development, nutrition, recreation, planning and supervising learning activities; child abuse and neglect prevention, working with parents and the legal and administrative requirements of the field."

Why isn't the exact design available yet?

The bond proposal is designed with sufficient funding for the development of classroom learning space that matches the needs of the teachers teaching and the students learning. This will mean different things in different parts of the high school and will be a part of a robust design process upon approval, which will involve a great deal of additional citizen input. 

In the FACS classroom, for example, moving from a home kitchen design to a commercial kitchen design. The purpose for this is directly related to learning. The emphasis has shifted to ensuring that students have opportunities to explore career options. So, a commercial kitchen fits into the career pathway that is already in place at Newton High School but is difficult for students because of the design and equipment that students have available to them. 

The goal is, and always has been, to have teacher and community input in the design phase.  All community members are encouraged to talk to teachers about what they would like to have that they currently do not have in their classrooms. How might they address the current and future learning needs of the students? What do the Career and Technical Education Pathways include?  

How much does the district have in savings?

School districts don’t have traditional savings accounts. They do have funds across their budget that have money in them commonly referred to as unencumbered cash balances.

As of July 1, Newton School District’s unencumbered cash balances were $10.9 million. Most of these funds have been allocated for--state statutes restrict monies to be spent in certain ways. For example, the district can’t spend bond and interest money on anything except bond and interest payments.

Additionally, the district gets the last fiscal payment from the state in June and won’t get another payment from local revenue until September 20 and a prorated rate from the state until October or November so there needs to be cash on-hand to pay employees, pay bills and deal with any unforeseen issues.  

Part of that $10.9 million is capital outlay which is about $1.3 million and contingency reserve which is about $1.3 million. Capital Outlay helps fund things like facilities improvements, software licenses and buses. Contingency reserve is used for emergencies. Whether to use contingency reserve fund is a board decision.

It is recommended that school districts carry 10 to 15 percent of their budget in unencumbered cash and the district is in that range.