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|1/19/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Northeast school board approves ballot language for bond referendum|
By Jeremy Huss
The Northeast Community School Board Jan. 15 approved the official language to be used on a petition seeking a bond referendum for a multi-million dollar gym and classroom addition.
Several members of the Northeast athletic booster club were present and will begin circulating the petition among eligible school district voters.
School board members said they hope to receive a valid petition by Feb. 6 in order to meet statutory deadlines required to hold a special election for the bond issue April 2.
Once the school board has received a valid petition, it must wait five business days to allow residents to file objections before holding a hearing on the petition, and, if it has sufficient signatures, forwarding it to the county auditor to be placed on the ballot.
The Northeast board has scheduled a hearing on the petition for Feb. 13 in order to approve a resolution of election that can be sent to the auditor prior to the Feb. 15 deadline for an April 2 election date.
The number of signatures needed on the petition is based on the number of voters in the last school election. Northeast needs 13 signatures from eligible voters in the school district, based on a turnout of 55 voters at the last election.
"Thirteen signatures are required, but it would be nice if you had substantially more than that," Cox told athletic booster volunteers.
On the recommendation of building committee members Rich Krogmann and Andy Friedrichsen, the board approved language asking for a $7.5 million bond referendum, $1 million more than the amount previously discussed by the board.
Krogmann and Friedrichsen said they came to the figure by looking at the scope of the proposed project and using an estimated cost per square foot.
"Our recommendation is to look for $7.5 million on the petition. That would get the full scope at this time," Krogmann said.
The project scope includes construction of a 1,500-seat gym, locker rooms, a new fitness center, a physical education/multipurpose classroom, four science classrooms, parking areas and outdoor athletic facilities.
With a 3.5 percent increase in property valuations in the last year, the Northeast district has a total property valuation of $172 million.
Based on that value, Cox said the district could take on $7.5 million in debt for the facility addition and still lower the debt service levy by 35 cents, from $3.03 to $2.68 per $1,000 valuation.
However, he recommended the board ask voters separately to approve a 34 cent increase in the physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) to fund building maintenance.
The PPEL funds are needed to cover the costs of an additional maintenance employee due to the proposed 42,000-square-foot facility addition, Cox said.
The request for an increase in the PPEL will be separate from the bond election.
Assuming both are approved, Northeast would be able to reduce tax rates by one cent while moving forward with the $7.5 million construction project, he stated.
Cox reminded board members the district is aiming for the April referendum vote in order to take advantage of record-low interest rates.
The district's financial advisor, Matt Gillaspie of Piper Jaffray, has estimated the district could save $800,000-$900,000 in interest fees over the life of the bonds by acting now, assuming interest rates will increase in the future, Cox said.
"We can't control the assessments, and we can't control the economy, but we're comfortable with things as they are today," he stated.
An informational meeting on the facility project has been scheduled for March 21 at the Northeast auditorium. Representatives from architectural firm Modern Design of Janesville will be present to answer questions from the public.
The district plans to hold at least one additional informational meeting prior to the April 2 vote.
If the bond referendum moves forward, the ballot language will read:
"Shall the directors of the Northeast Community School District in the county of Clinton, state of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $7.5 million to provide funds to build, furnish and equip an addition to and to remodel, repair, furnish and equip the existing middle school/high school building, including related site improvements; and to build, improve, remodel, repair, furnish and equip athletic facilities, including related site improvements?"