Letter to the Editor

Get answers first

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dear Editor,

After the last bond failed in the November, the board of education contacted members of the Hitchcock County School District. They held numerous public meetings, giving the citizens their chance to voice their options about what should be done next in regard to the Hitchcock County Schools.

Many options were presented to the Board. They then asked the architects to provide them with estimated costs of each plan.

During a public meeting in February, the Board presented a large group of patrons four options. The top two options as voted on by the members of the public attending those meetings were one site in Culbertson or keeping the campus configuration the way they are by adding a new elementary wing in Culbertson and additional classroom space in Trenton.

Those two options were again voted on. By a slight majority, the two site option won the most votes.

Concerns were raised about the efficiency of running two sites. The architects estimated that there would be no significant cost savings by running one site simply because the square footage of the buildings would be the same whether it was located at two sites or one site.

Likewise, there would be no savings on bussing. Kids are still going to live in the same house and need to be transported to school. Plus the district is reimbursed for some of the cost of bussing.

COULD one site save up to millions versus two sites? Maybe. But right now there is no proof of that being true. In fact, all the evidence presented to the Board of Education and the public is to the contrary.

According to the latest census numbers, the towns of Trenton and Culbertson grew in population while the surrounding towns decreased. Likewise the student population at Hitchcock County has been growing.

Over the past three years, three new teachers have been hired to accommodate the growing class sizes. Classes have been split to provide a better learning environment for the students, which offers more one on one time with their teacher.

By splitting these classes Hitchcock County Schools is provided with more state aid, which pays for the salaries of these new educators.

Currently there are:

18 Students in Pre-School (Only twenty are allowed in the program)

24 Kindergarten students.

24 students in First Grade.

24 students in Second Grade.

22 students in Third Grade and

23 students in Fourth Grade.

When comparing these numbers to the higher grades, especially in the high school, it's easy to see that the number of students is growing, not dropping.

Not every consolidated school in Nebraska has two sites but the majority of consolidated schools in our area do. Dungy County-Stratton, Wauneta/Palisade and Southwest. Hayes Center maintains two buildings in the same town. There are a number of consolidated schools in Nebraska. Many of them maintain two sites within the same town, while others run two sites in different towns. It is not uncommon for a school district to run more than one building.

People who are worried about saving money on taxes should understand that this is the cheapest option. The Board was asked to keep the total costs around $7 million dollars. This bond is for $7.4 million. The one site option is estimated to cost over $9 million. A higher bond amount means a higher levy and higher taxes.

Estimated savings over 20 years is not going to lower your taxes. Even if one site were more efficient, the taxes will remain the same for the tax payers of the Hitchcock County School District. The savings would be to the school district itself.

And if nothing is done, and the school closes, tax payer will still pay school taxes. Only they will pay them to a neighboring district. McCook has a school levy of $1.20. If they are not able to accommodate the students from Hitchcock County, they would need to build and in order to build, they would need to pass a bond, which would increase the school levy and raise taxes.

Many, many meetings were held. Many, many options have been discussed.

The current Hitchcock County School bond is the one that the majority of patrons wanted to see put to a vote. This is the feedback received by the Hitchcock County Board of Education.

The people in support of this bond are not afraid to put their names on anything associated with it. All of the information is straight forward and available to anyone who wants it. There are no tricks being played. No one is forcing you to put a sign in your yard. The facts don't lie.

If you wish to know any additional information, contact a member of the Hitchcock County Board of Education, the superintendent, architects or bonding agent. They will be happy to answer your questions. Or go online to www.FalconFuture.com.

There will also be a town hall style meeting on Monday, April 25th at 4:30 pm at the Church of God in Trenton. Anyone with questions is encouraged to attend.

Remember, you have until May 10th to return your ballot. There is no rush.

Get all of your questions answered before you vote.

Lesa Tines

Citizens for Hitchcock County Schools

Culbertson, Nebraska

View 7 comments
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  • Why won't you say how many will be in the kindergarten class next year? Definitely not all 18. It was in the Hitchcock County News. Not all pre-schoolers will start. Already the numbers are going down and one less teacher and class. Do you know what is happening to schools that consolidated several years ago in southeast and eastern NE? They also had several sites and now they are going to one site so they can operate more effeciently--especially with the state aid going to be cut. The large schools are going to be cut and are concerened how they will operate a school system, how do you think a class D can survive?

    -- Posted by soos on Mon, Apr 25, 2011, at 5:32 PM
  • Last year 17 signed up for Kindergarten Round-Up and 23 showed up on the first day of school. Now there are 24 in the class.

    There are 18 new students signed up for next year's Kindergarten class right now.

    This info comes from the school. It is not my opinion.

    -- Posted by tineslk on Tue, Apr 26, 2011, at 12:13 PM
  • Don't throw out the "McCook will need to issue a bond" scare tactic. McCook could absorb Hitchcock and not have to change anything.

    -- Posted by norm on Wed, Apr 27, 2011, at 6:34 PM
  • Norm. It had long been rumored that McCook runs at near capacity year after year (If this is wrong could you please provide a link proving so). So to assume that they would need to issue a bond to expand to absorb nearly 200 more students is a valid assumption. Also, McCooks levy is higher then hitchcock's so that is also a valid point to make as far as the extra cost if we where absorbed into that district.

    -- Posted by carlsonl on Thu, Apr 28, 2011, at 7:18 AM
  • Sorry I was wrong when saying nearly 200. I meant to type in nearly 300. I believe the number is around 275.

    -- Posted by carlsonl on Thu, Apr 28, 2011, at 9:57 AM
  • The McCook school system has ran with +2k students in the past. There are currently around 1400 now, so the 275 could be handled.

    The current levy includes a bond for the elementary school, which would not apply in your situation.

    -- Posted by norm on Thu, Apr 28, 2011, at 3:26 PM
  • Iteresting. Thanks for that info.

    -- Posted by carlsonl on Thu, Apr 28, 2011, at 4:36 PM
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