With a margin of just over 100 votes, Hutchinson School District residents approved Tuesday a bond referendum that will fund the renovation of Park Elementary and West Elementary.
"We appreciate the support of the Hutchinson community," said Keith Kamrath, chair of the Hutchinson School Board. "This is going to be a very nice addition of the academic offering Hutchinson is able to provide."
The vote came to 1,630 "yes" ballots and 1,512 "no" ballots on the $28.8 million bonding proposal.
The bond will increase property taxes in the district by:
- $143 per year on a home valued at $150,000,
- $170 per year on a commercial property valued at $100,000,
- $1.42 per year on an agricultural homestead (average value per acre of land and buildings) worth $5,000, and
- $2.83 per year on agricultural non-homestead land (average value per acre) valued at $5,000.
The burden on agriculture property is reduced by 50 percent due to a state Ag2School tax credit. For instance, the $1.42 per year mentioned in the example above would have been $2.80. The credit will increase incrementally until 2023, when it will be up to 70 percent.
The bond referendum drew 3,142 voters, only a few hundred less than the 3,469 voters who cast ballots in 2015 for a $45 million project to renovate Hutchinson High School. That vote came to 2,807 in favor and 662 against.
"We were expecting a similar turnout given an off-year election," Kamrath said.
With the bond funding, the School Board hopes to address the needs of the aging Park Elementary building, including its electrical and mechanical systems and poor energy efficiency. The school was originally completed in 1938. Additional sections were added in 1956, but today the building is not as compatible with new technology as others in the district, and the layout provides fewer options for teaching approaches.
A preliminary plan reviewed by the district includes a project that would demolish the 1956 addition to Park Elementary, maintain the original building, construct a two-story wing on the north side of West Elementary, and transfer second and third grades to West Elementary.
At West Elementary, upgrades are sought for early childhood education spaces and building infrastructure.
There is also the issue of comfort for students. The top floor of Park Elementary can reach 80 or 90 degrees early and late in the year.
Administrators believe it would be expensive to renovate Park Elementary’s 1956 addition, which can be seen today on the northwest side. The plan to construct a new wing at West Elementary and use that opportunity to improve the building for early childhood programs is believed to be more economical.
Following the proposed demolition of the 1956 addition, the installation of new glass to better regulate heat paired with the removal of window panels will make Park Elementary look much as it did when it was constructed about 80 years ago.
Superintendent Daron Vanderheiden said there are no other needs on the district's long-term facility maintenance plan other than maintenance.
"There are no major building plans following this," he said in a Q&A. "It will set us up long term (for) birth to grade 12."
Construction is expected to start in the fall of 2020 and be completed by the fall of 2022. The district will make plans to disrupt classes as little as possible.