A special mail-in election for a $17.9 million expansion of Hershey Public Schools will get underway soon, with a lower financial burden for ag land owners.

The election is a repeat of a bond election in August that voters turned down by a narrow margin. The bond would finance a new 30,000 sq. ft. addition and renovate 55,000 sq. ft. of the existing building.

An open house will be held at the school from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 16 to discuss the project and tour the building.

Like the last bond election, this election will be held by mail. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters in the district during the week of Jan. 26, Hershey School Superintendent Jane Davis said. The election will conclude on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

In August, the bond was denied by just 31 votes — 436 voters said no and 405 said yes, with 57% of eligible voters casting ballots.

Davis said during the open house Sunday, breakout sessions will be held with financial information, design, construction and the impact of the improvements for students,.

She said the bond will address these needs:

• The 1959 portion of the building to increase the size of instructional classrooms.

• The 1959 kitchen and lunchroom into classrooms, nurse’s office and K-12 art room.

• The 1959 gym and stage into a K-12 library/media center, classrooms and office space.

• Classrooms for vocational agriculture and FFA.

• Classrooms for special education and Title I.

• A new kitchen, serving area and lunch seating space.

• Renovate existing bathrooms to make them accessible for people with disabilities.

• Renovate existing east locker rooms with the same size and features for Title IX compliance.

• Build two new locker rooms the same size with same features for Title IX compliance.

• Renovate space at the current bus doors for a safe and secure entrance with a central administration office.

• Add a multipurpose space for physical education classes and fine arts.

• Add instructional space for health science and strength and conditioning classes.

• Other site improvements include electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

Davis said classrooms no longer use a “sit and get” format of fixed, individual seats. Instead, students are frequently taught in small groups, with more individual instruction too. She said there are often 2-3 groups in the room, but the noise is distracting, so groups now have move into the hallways or the school vestibule.

“The project fits all the needs we have – for space, renovations and more instructional equity,” she said. “It will also enhance our ability to provide quality education well into the future.”

Davis noted that interest rates are historically low.

The Hershey community is encouraged to attend the open house Sunday. Tours will also include a welding lab that was renovated in the last five years and health career academy room, which contains equipment acquired in the last year through state Revision grants.

Tax impact

Under LB 2, which passed the Legislature in 2021, agricultural and horticultural land is now valued at 50% of its actual value for purposes of school bonds such as Hershey’s, instead of 75%.

The reduction took effect on Jan. 1.

The project would increase taxes for the owner of an irrigated quarter-section by $482 a year, significantly less than the $774 per irrigated quarter cost of the last bond.

For the owner of a $100,000 residential or business property, this bond would add $170 per year to their property taxes, Davis said. That’s about $20 more than last time, to help offset the reduced tax revenue from ag land.

Hershey school district residents can register to vote online up until Jan. 28 and can also vote in person at the Lincoln County Clerk’s office until Feb. 4.

More information about the project can be found at the website hershey.campaigninformation.org.

The proposed floor plan (click to enlarge):

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