(Updated) -- Voting is underway in KMAland for the first combined municipal and school board elections.
Polls for Super Vote I opened at 7 this morning, and will remain open until 8 p.m. Big mayoral, city council and school board races are at stake all across the region, as well as major school-related referendums. Voters in the Shenandoah School District. for example, are deciding on a $14.7 million bond issue for renovation and expansion at Shenandoah High School--including construction of a Career Technology Education addition, a new gym/fitness center and "repurposing" of existing classrooms into Science, Technology, Engineering or Math--or STEM-related programming.
Today's bond issue vote follows a three-year process exploring the future of the district's facilities. Shenandoah School Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson recently told KMA News the CTE addition addresses the statewide trend of programming aimed at addressing employers' needs for a highly-skilled workforce.
"It's a large environment to add programs such as welding, auto, woods and construction, and an ag lab," said Nelson, "that have sufficient space to do the type of work the teachers are wanting to do, and attempting to do. They just don't have adequate space, currently."
Another bond issue referendum is at stake in the Sidney School District, where voters are deciding on a $10 million bond issue for a host of facilities upgrades. Travis Hensley chairs the Vote Yes For Sidney Schools Committee--the group spearheading the bond issue campaign. Speaking on KMA's "Morning Line" program recently, Hensley says this referendum addresses some of the same needs as the one that missed the 60% supermajority by one vote back in April.
"Most of our campuses are pretty aged," said Hensley. "Our elementary school was built in 1968. Our football and track stadium was built in 1964. So, we've got some major improvements to do there--particularly at our elementary school."
Another big ticket item--construction of a new CTE facility at Sidney's junior-senior high school. Both bond issues need the 60% supermajority in order to pass. Other districts have placed physical plant and equipment levies on today's ballots. One such referendum calls for a 10-year PPEL in the AHSTW School District, renewing an existing levy set to expire in two years. AHSTW Superintendent Darin Jones says the levy provides important revenues for buildings and ground upkeep.
"School districts who implement the levy are able to lease or purchase buildings they can repair, remodel, do reconstruction," he said, "just overall improvements to the school buildings. We can really look at energy conservation projects. You can rent different facilities. You could also look at technology purchases. all of those things provide relief to your general fund."
Similar 10-year PPELs are up for renewal in the Corning and Villisca districts. Southwest Valley School Superintendent Chris Fenster says the levies are nothing new to either district.
"Some districts can go to $1.34 (per thousand dollars valuation)," said Fenster. "We're looking at 67 cents (per thousand). Together, those two would be a thousand dollars of your assessed tax value. Those things are up every 10 years. Both districts have had 'em for numerous years--20, 30 years. They just roll over every time."
Each PPEL referendum need simple majorities in order to be renewed. KMA News will have the results of these important issues with coverage of "Super Vote I: Election Night In KMAland." Special reports begin at approximately 9:05 this evening, after volleyball tournament trail coverage. We'll also have results online at kmaland.com.