CONWAY SPRINGS: USD 356 won’t ask voters for a bond

By Sam Jack

Voters will decide next month whether to approve bond issues in several south-central Kansas school districts, including Clearwater, Goddard and Andover, but Conway Springs USD 356 has no plans to advance a proposal anytime soon, according to superintendent Clay Murphy.

The school board looked into the possibility of a bond issue during summer 2016, but with uncertainty in Topeka, did not move beyond those early discussions.

One factor weighing against a bond issue is that the percentage of the bond that would be paid through state aid dollars has declined.

“On our old bond issue, we were at just over 50 percent,” Murphy said. “Under the block grant, it’s down in the low 30s. That’s a thing we have to look at: Does that ever bounce back? (We don’t know) until they get a new school finance package put together.”

Debt from Conway Springs’ previous bond issue is scheduled to be paid off by 2022 at the latest, and could be retired a few years early, Murphy said. The district will probably reconsider a bond project when that happens, if not sooner.

“The other thing we always look at is the economy, and especially the farm economy around here,” he said.

Murphy said he and the school board members often hear from patrons about capital improvements that they want included in any bond project.

“When people bring things in, we listen to them, and we write them down. There’s probably 400 ideas that we have,” he said. A new gym and new, artificial turf at Shinn Field are on sports boosters’ wish lists, while district employees are mindful of high-dollar pending maintenance expenses like HVAC overhauls, carpet, window and roof work.

“We’re probably a ways from sitting down and actually putting something together. There’s lots of rumors around that we’re putting turf in for next year, or building a gym – none of those things are true,” Murphy said.