The Junction City High School Way Forward project, which gained attention in late 2016 when a steering committee made up of community members was formed, will not add additional burden to local taxpayers through the district mill levy due to a funding formula that is based heavily on the community’s ties to the Fort Riley Installation. A bond of $105 million will be paid for by the current mill levy which will not rise as a result of this project (9.62% of total cost, which is currently being paid by community members through the existing mill levy), Heavy Impact Aid (35.20% of total cost), State funding as a result of a community passed bond initiative (47% of total cost), and interest income from the invested Heavy Impact Aid (8.18% of the project cost).
The local effort is vital to the continuation of the current proposed new high school as the State fund are only available to the district if the bond election is passed favorably. Voters will go to the polls on November 7, 2017, to state whether they believe the Geary County community should receive State money for the project, in a sense voters are deciding whether their tax dollars should be returned to the community through the bond.
Throughout the informational campaign season, some voters have questioned whether or not the mill levy will actually be raised and district officials have been adamant that the current funding formula does not call for any increases in the mill levy. USD 475 has an interest in not raising the mill levy because part of the qualification process for Heavy Impact Aid relies on not exceeding or falling under a certain rate. If Geary County Schools were to raise the mill levy, it would potentially be jeopardizing aid qualification and possibly forfeiting the millions of dollars the district receives in aid from the Federal Government. Out of the top 20 school districts in the State of Kansas, USD 475’s mill levy is the lowest (Source: KSDE Website reflecting the 2015-16 statewide mill assessments by district, out of a total of 286 school districts, USD 475 is the 244th lowest mill levy).