Russell County voters fail another school bond

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RUSSELL COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – A majority of voters in Russell County voted no to a USD 407 school bond, which sought to find solutions for HVAC and electric upgrades.

In February, Russell High School had to close for several days when a boiler went out. USD 407 schools were built between 1938 and 1962 and do not feature air conditioning or a central air component.

Voters failed a $17.5M bond in April 2019.

This month, the school district tried again with a $9.9M bond. Results show 60 percent of voters voted against the measure yesterday.

What to do next, superintendent Shelly Swayne says, is the million-dollar question.

“With electricity and HVAC, what can we do that we haven’t figured out yet?” Swayne said.

According to the district, the classrooms at each elementary school in the district average 2.75 outlets per classroom. The classrooms in the secondary schools average 3.5 outlets per classroom, not including computer labs or offices.

The recent bond sought to add capacity to power fans, computers and other technology.

According to the district, when science classrooms at Russell Middle School want to do an experiment with two hot plates, the entire second and third floor of the school has to unplug and turn off anything that uses electricity in order to not blow the breakers.

“That’s probably a bigger issue for us than what we need to figure out with our HVAC, honestly. The electricity component in the 21st century classroom is a very difficult solution to try to figure out,” Swayne said.

While the results were not what the school district hoped for, Swayne acknowledges the difficulty in asking people to raise their own taxes.

“We do the best we can with grants, we do the best we can with donations and fundraising. But there comes a time where we have to ask for taxes and that’s where we’re at,” Swayne said.

The November bond ultimately failed: 962 no votes to 642 yes votes.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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