The headline for this article is an obvious play on the headline of the article penned by Chris Dinkel which appeared in The Hays Daily News on June 16. The purpose of this article is to provide a different perspective and some balance to the conclusions drawn by and opinions of Chris.
Here are my thoughts on the last Vision Team meeting June 13, structured to give homage to the classic western film “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Keep in mind that out of the 14 people attending the last meeting, only two of us did not support the last bond issue.
The Good: The Vision Team's latest $78 million plan eliminates the use of a sales tax to help finance the school bonds. This is undoubtedly welcome news to the Hays City commissioners and the Ellis County commissioners. However, truth be told, without diminishing the Vision Team's decision, there still was some discussion at the last meeting about a petition drive in response to the city commissioners' comments. That all ended when Superintendent John Thissen explained to the group that the school board members were very clear in their meeting the night before that they didn't want, for all the right reasons, to pursue a sales tax to help finance a school bond. The school board members showed respect for the wishes of their local government colleagues, and in doing so rid themselves of an unnecessary obstacle to the next bond election. They were mindful of the people from surrounding counties who shop in Ellis County as well as the concerns of local car dealers and other retailers. Their decision tells the electorate that they are listening to them and are going to approach this bond election in a different way, etc. So, as far as not pursuing a sales tax, the school board should be given the lion's share of any credit.
One also could view as a "little" good the fact that two years ago the bond was for $94 million, the Vision Team's proposal in May was for $89 million and the latest proposal in June is for only $78 million. Given that another 1.5 hour meeting reduced the bond by $11 million, just ponder for a moment the possibilities that some more hours of examination might produce.
The Bad: In Chris' letter, he pridefully reports that, "It hasn't taken years of committee meetings to assess the needs of the district." I appreciate the time previously devoted to examining the conditions of the school district facilities. However, at each Vision Team meeting when I was asked, I offered my belief that more time should be spent exploring alternative possibilities and other combinations of options, particularly as it relates to the elementary schools and the buildings that have been designated for closure.
My point was and continues to be, not that we need to spend another year or two planning, but the plans will never be balanced or reflect the community as a whole, if the thoughts and views of those who make up the 15 percent of the Vision Team aren't fully explored. I wholeheartedly believe that for far less than $78 million, there is another plan or two that can touch each school and meet the needs of the schools. Moreover, further analysis should involve such things as what to do with vacated schools and the administration building, as well as costs to maintain them, and the incidental costs related to all the proposed construction and transition which have received no real attention to date.
The Ugly: The Vision Team's decision to propose a $78 million school bond once again was the absolute largest dollar amount possible without the help of a sales tax and without provoking, I suspect, an even more visceral reaction from the public. The justification used by the Vision Team for "going big" was based in part on two related arguments. One, they were told by the architectural team at the beginning of the meeting that there was proposed legislation which could create some hurdles for any future bond election. Two, with this in mind, they determined, apparently on the basis of reality (not opinion or anecdotes), the public never would support another bond issue in the next 25 years.
However, this is clearly contradicted by the results of the robocall survey conducted by the architectural team months ago which indicated 60 percent of the respondents preferred smaller more frequent bond issues rather than one large one.
In the end, the Vision Team's latest proposal still suffers from the same flawed process as I consistently have argued in my past articles. It is a plan which was produced by a Vision Team which was 85 percent committed to a bond, no matter the amount. The views of 15 percent of the Vision Team (2 or 3) that voted against the last bond and wanted to explore some other options for less dollars at the June meeting, in actuality carried little to no weight. In my opinion the results continue to lack any real balance and still don't reflect the community as a whole. I'll leave everyone to ponder these questions: Is there a school plan worth waiting for a little longer? And wouldn't it be prudent for the school board to consider more than one plan? Speaking for those representing the 15 percent of the Vision Team and a large segment of the voting public, I believe the answer to both questions is yes.