Schuyler’s school bond order narrowly passes

March 20, 2019

The results were maybe a little closer than Schuyler Community Schools’ representatives would have liked, but the mission was accomplished.

Schuyler Central High School this summer will start undergoing a wave of construction not only bringing certain areas into Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, but also providing expanded opportunities for its approximately 600 students and the community as a whole.

From Feb. 26 through March 12, residents in Colfax, Butler and Saunders counties comprising the Schuyler Community Schools District had the opportunity to vote in favor of or against a $12.5-million bond referendum that would significantly modify the appearance and layout of the 1953-built school.

Information provided by Colfax County Clerk Rita Mundil shows that the bond order passed by a vote of 821 to 748 (52.33 percent for, 47.67 percent against). Forty-five percent of the total registered number of school district voters cast ballots.

“It was good,” Mundil said of the voter turnout. “Our general election (November 2018) had a 50-percent turnout, and that had a Leigh school bond order on it. So 45 percent was very high, very good.”

Schuyler Community Schools in total has 3,561 voters. Of that, 3,357 come from Colfax County, 203 from Butler County and one from Saunders County.

The project, district Superintendent Dan Hoesing said, has been contracted to Lincoln-based Hausmann Construction Inc.

The total reach of the construction calls for renovation work to be completed in the high school’s corridor, restrooms and east gym. New construction will take place for a new kitchen/cafeteria, additional locker rooms, a new gym and wrestling practice facility.

Renovation expenses are marked at $2 million, construction expenses $9 million and professional service, consisting of costs associating with contracting design architects; electrical, mechanical, structural, and civil engineers; interior design, acoustic design, food service design and construction management, among others, at $1.5 million.

Construction is expected to gear up in June with work beginning on the new gymnasium, kitchen, cafeteria, locker rooms, parking lot and wrestling practice area. Those projects are outlined to be completed in the fall of next year.

In December 2020, work is projected to start on revamping the old gymnasium into an event center. The bond passage is allowing for the renovation of the east gym and stage to accommodate handicap accessibility, increase seating and improve acoustics, lighting, heating and air conditioning for performing arts, dance, music, drama and community meetings and events. This project is expected to be completed by August 2021.

“I think, No. 1, we are pleased with the results of the voting and are still very much aware of being sensitive to both sides (of the vote),” Hoesing said. “We need to give those who voted in favor everything we promised. And for those who didn’t support the vote, we understand that and we hold our commitment to those who have expressed tax concerns, and we will make sure that we continue to hold the line on spending.”

The 20-year bond, the superintendent said, is not intended to raise taxes and is revenue neutral. He said currently, around 10.87 cents is being levied for district buildings, and at the highest year, the bond peaks at 10.6 cents and then declines.

Had the bond not passed, Hoesing previously said that the district would still have to complete segments of the project to be in ADA compliance, which would likely come at a significant taxpayer burden.

Without passage, provided information shows the district would continue levying at the same level; however, it would have to approve an additional bond through the Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund (QCPUF) to address the ADA and life safety compliance requirements, which could result in a 3-cent levy increase for up to 10 years ($417,265 yearly).

“I am very pleased the voters of our community have decided to invest in this project,” said Sheri Balak of the Schuyler Community Schools Foundation. “An investment in the school is an investment in our community, and we are very thankful for that.”

Added Hoesing: “I think we have a great opportunity to provide some really adequate facilities for a lot of different programs involved. This will also help to change some of our image … Now the kids and others see the sacrifices and support of this community and what it has done for them.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.