Dodge schools proposing $85.6 million bond

DODGE CITY, Kansas – Dodge City Public Schools continue to grow, but that growth has caused overcrowding.  Some classes in the district are pushing 40 kids in one room.

“Our population is consistently growing and we always want to do what’s best for kids,” said Instructional Coach Maria Ortiz-Smith.

So the district is proposing an $85.6 million bond issue.  The bond will be voted on in June, and if it passes it will help pay for some much needed expansions across the district.

Superintendent Alan Cunningham says now is the right time for the bond.

“[It’s] a perfect storm or great window of opportunity for our community,” he said.

First, low interest rates will make it cheaper.  Secondly, the district says it can get more from the state if it is approved now.  Right now, the state will support the project at 58%, once new funding rules go into effect in July Dodge can only get 42%.

“That would be a difference in $17 million in state aid we would lose if we’d wait to have the bond issue next fall like we’d originally planned,” Cunningham said.

He said it shouldn’t make any difference in what residents pay right now since an existing bond will expire as this one would start.  So, taxpayers would just continue paying 12.4 mills to the school district.

“Just continue that levy straight on out even after these current bonds pay off and just apply that amount to the new bonds,” Cunningham said.

The district is still working on project specifics, but once they release that plan they’re hopeful voters will support it.

“Our kids are our future, and I think we definitely need to invest in our kids,” Ortiz-Smith said.

The district will hold a special board meeting next week to nail down project plans.  Cunningham said the majority of the expansions will be for the high school and elementary schools and new rooms would be built to serve as severe weather shelters, something that some schools currently lack.

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