USD 475 plans to use several funding sources for a new high school on a new site if the bond election is passed on November 7, 2017. One of those sources is state funds which will cover nearly half of the overall bond amount. Earlier this year the future of state funding for new bond issues was unknown; however, currently, the state will cover 47% of the total bond amount if approved by a community vote due to the project being grandfathered in. If the bond fails to pass in November is it highly unlikely the district will be able to leverage that 47% again in the future, this is truly the last real chance to fund the proposed new school in this way (without directly adding additional burden to taxpayers as a result of this project). On March 14, 2017, the Kansas State Board of Education approved the district’s bond initiative which commits the State of Kansas to this payment. Bond payments are a demand item transfer and are required to be paid by law.
Without the passing of a bond election, the project will forfeit these state funds and district staff would have to revisit potential ideas to address current challenges at the Junction City High School building.
“We’ve said several times, to move forward with a new high school we need three things to happen. First, gain approval for state funds, [which occurred on March 14th]. Next, we need to receive the Heavy Impact Aid payment. Lastly, the community will need to pass the bond election on May 9th [Bond Election was moved to November 7th after the time of this quote. District Officials postponed the election to ensure the current year’s Heavy Impact Aid payment was received prior to bringing the election to the communty].” Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Corbin Witt said prior to traveling to Washington D.C. for a National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) Conference last Spring (2017).
In order to participate in this community decision, it is important to register to vote for the upcoming election prior to October 17, 2017 (the last day to register for the November 7th vote). Another large funding source for this project is Heavy Impact Aid. Heavy Impact Aid is primarily used for capital outlay projects (these are one-time payment projects and not meant for operational costs). Heavy Impact Aid funds come directly to the district, with no percentage collected by the State of Kansas. These funds are given to districts who meet the following criteria: Military student population is at least 50%, cost per pupil is lower than the state average, and the tax rate is at least 95% of the State average.
USD 475 currently has invested $40.5 million (at the time of this article) in Heavy Impact Aid funding and expects to receive no less than $26.5 million more over the next 3 years. These funding sources along with the current mill levy (after budget approval once again the district mill levy will remain the same) will allow the district to build a new school without increasing the district mill levy. Earlier this year, Geary County Schools received an additional payment of $1.2 million which they had not anticipated. This payment was from the 2014-2015 school year and is not the payment the district was waiting for as part of their checks and balances process for the JCHS Way Forward (the current year’s payment was received and is now invested).
Former Chief Operations Officer William Clark said at the time, “Additional payments aren’t uncommon for Heavy Impact Aid. Allotments can increase depending on how much money is appropriated. If the entirety of funds isn’t given out, additional payments can be distributed.”
For information on voter registration and additional resources to help you become more informed on the JCHS Way Forward discussion visit www.usd475.org.