Newton’s viability the reason to vote yes on bond

Passing a bond issue would be the best investment any governing body could currently make to ensure our future viability as a successful and growing city.  Don’t agree? That’s ok. Just keep reading.

People live in a community for school systems. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have so many local employees driving from Maize.

Facilities play a huge role in that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have local employees driving from Valley Center and other surrounding school districts that offer far fewer activities and academic opportunities than Newton.

The best recruiting tool for Hesston, outside of time when the district decided to hold “drug arrest press conferences,” is a walk inside our high school.

These are the facts, plain and simple. We waste our resources creating jobs that no one moves here to fill.

We waste our resources educating students if they don’t want to stay and raise a family here. And, if we continue in this direction, with a population continuing to grow older and poorer, our tax bases, government and quality of life will deteriorate. School facilities play a major role in that.

Newton needs good, young families willing to live here. We have these families working jobs in our community. Now, we just need to make the kind of impressions that changes people’s minds.

A rebuilt high school with $34.5 million in improvements would help change that. Touting apocalypse proof tornado shelters – definitely not our favorite part for the cost – could help change that. Space, room and top end security updates could help change that, in the age of mass shootings.

We agree that teachers and programs provide the education, not the building. We’ve got top career and technical education programs in Newton. We’ve got top AP programs. We see this when we write these stories regularly.
It’s the facilities that hold our district’s perception back. Fixing our facilities won’t suddenly improve test scores or arbitrary real-estate company rankings that people like to sight. To do that our district would need to focus more on teaching to state standardized tests and gaming the system instead of encouraging post-graduate success. Fixing the facilities, however, will ensure Newton students have all the resources and opportunities of those living in surrounding towns.

We’ve come to this conclusion informed by years of reporting, much thought,  as well as long phone calls and office visits with community leaders who stopped by. We also look back to a commitment we made on this editorial page the week after the last bond failed.

We listed all of the issues with that bond that we reported on and why we couldn’t support it. We said if those issues would be solved, we would support a bond.

We had problems with how vague bond plans were and how it seemed hard to get straight forward answers. We now have detailed plans and information – instead of simply colored squares – available on the district website. District administration and school board members have went on a road show throughout the community discussing bond plans to anyone that will listen. The district has been available and countless community round tables have been held to discuss and answer questions on the issue. Read our breakdown of the bond in the Aug. 8 edition of the paper. We feel confident we have a good idea what our money will fund.
We noted that the district should put in necessary improvements – the high school remodel and safety and security upgrades – into one passable question and list a new school as a separate question. They did that.

We noted that the district should plan for the future, instead of placating to a very loud and understandably passionate group. They did that in this bond, changing plans for where a new school would be located.

We thought local governments and organizations should have at least a say in the planning process. The district had appointments from local government and the business community on its new planning group. It has a more active construction and risk management company to help balance out advice or possible commission padding from DLR, the company it hired to help with designs and the last bond issue campaign.

In the end what they came up with wasn’t perfect. We think they made the bond far harder to pass by keeping the price similar to the last one on question one. We questioned the necessity of a number of add-ons. But, the plan was far better than the slap dash cluster that was 2017’s effort and did have more local input.

Our final motivation is that we don’t know what our future will be or the outcome of the city commission race or the school board race.
We don’t know if a new city commission will work to cut proposed city tax increases, as this commission did cutting a seven mill increase to zero. That proposed increase, which we editorialized against, would have equalled the same cost as bond question one. The motivation for some commissioners to cut was to help give a school bond question a chance.

This years BOE will cut property by 2.4 mills further giving the bond funding space. With four seats up for election don’t know what the school board will look like or how it’s particular ideological bend will effect practical planning.
We don’t know what the state legislature’s going to do. In 2007, it would have covered 58 percent of the bond cost. This year, it will cover 27 percent. Had we received funding levels of 12 years ago, the state would be paying us $18.5 million more dollars.

In the face of uncertainty, we do know this, however. Newton needed a bond in 2017 it needs a bond today, and should this bond fail, it will need a bond in the future.

We do understand some people not wanting to approve question two, which would move Walton’s ag program to a new school on the south side of Newton and likely result in an eventual closure of the aging school outside of Newton. If you don’t like two however, at least consider voting in favor of question one, which would address many of the districts’ future needs. With funding going to Walton should question two fail and one pass, supporting question one seems to be a way for Walton supporters to ensure at least a few more years of the school being open in that community.

We have no idea if this bond will pass.  Out of town advocacy groups will put out propaganda to try to sway the election. The cess pit of social media will have plenty of folks grinding personal axes, with half-baked numbers and ideas. We could have simply avoided all of this, sat on the side and not said anything to save social capital. But we write this editorial as we do every week, with the earnest hope to advocate for a better Newton.

Supporting the bond issue, especially question 1, would do that.

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