School bond financing 101



February 22, 2019 - 10:44 PM

Darin Augustine, with SJCF Architects of Wichita, talks to the USD 257 Board of Education about a school bond proposal in November 2018.

(Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a series of articles related to the April 2 USD 257 school bond referendum. Read the first article in the series here; the second can be found here.) 

When it comes to the USD 257 school bond issue, 35 is a special number.

The state will pay 35 percent of the costs.

If voters agree to build a new elementary school, it will cost about 35 cents a day.

But 35 is only one of the many numbers voters will need to consider as they head to the ballot box April 2 to decide whether to build a new elementary school for $25.5 million, with options to build a new science and technology building at the high school for $7 million and provide new heating, ventilation and cooling systems for $2.8 million.

Combined, the measures would cost about $35.3 million.

But even those figures don’t show the full picture. After the state pays 35 percent, local taxpayers would be left with $22.945 million for the three projects.

And though some voters may make their decisions based on numbers alone, school bond supporters hope the community is willing to invest in new facilities based on the information gleaned from a year of meetings by members of a steering committee.

It’s been 26 years since USD 257 voters passed a school bond issue, when they agreed to improve the middle school.

“Cost always plays a factor, but the right plan makes a difference,” Darin Augustine, with SJCF Architects of Wichita, said. SJCF is working with USD 257 on the school bond issue. “I think everybody knew something needed to be done, so taking the time for research and community engagement was important.”

EXPERIENCE has taught Augustine that $10 also carries a lot of weight.

That $10 represents the monthly amount the average taxpayer can expect to pay in increased property taxes. The closer you can get to that magic figure, the more likely voters will approve a bond issue, Augustine believes.

“Historically, it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re working with a large district or a small district, that’s where the sweet spot is,” Augustine said.

If voters agree to build a new elementary school, it’s likely to cost the owner of a $70,000 house about $10.48 more in property taxes each month. If all three issues are approved, the increase will be about $14.57 a month.

But estimating the expected cost to taxpayers is a tricky business. Steve Shogren and Bret Shogren, analysts with George K. Baum & Company of Wichita who are working with USD 257, said they considered the most conservative scenario for financing, based on a couple of variables.