On Jun. 10 over 13,000 ballots were mailed to Hays residents to vote to increase local property taxes in order to fund teachers’ salaries.
They would be voting to increase it by one percent turning it from 30 to 31 percent. This would add $37.95 to property taxes on a $100,000 house.
If voted yes, it would fund almost $200,000 for the school district to hire back teachers and reduce class sizes for grades K-6.
Unfortunately, it came up a couple million dollars short with around 32 percent of ballots turned in. Some of the ballots returned were not valid because residents neglected to sign them.
James Leiker, vice president of the Board Of Education in Hays, explains that the ballots were mailed to residents because they were more cost effective than a polling station and convenient for people to do in the comfort of their homes.
He also stated that if the mail ballots would have passed they would have raised approximately $250 thousand via a mill levy increase.
For this year, Unified School District 489 is about $1.3 to $1.4 million short.
The money was needed to cut and balance out the school board budget. Before sending out the ballots, the school board raised students and activity fees for this school year only to alleviate a major cut in teaching positions.
The school board recently passed a $150 kindergarten fee because it is only half-day funded.
At the moment, no teaching positions are being cut as long as the State budget stays stable. But because of the budget discrepancy they did have to release staff this previous May.
Leiker explained that they cannot raise any funds to meet the goal and have to work with what they have.
“Education is the future of any community,” Leiker said. “The State has cut funding to schools for many years. With inflation we were operating at the same funding levels as we were in 1992 to 1993. Without proper funding we cannot afford to educate kids and provide opportunities in academic, athletics, and extracurricular activities. The Hays community has always had a long standing excellence in education and we want that to continue.”