Questions about upcoming bond referendum answered

~by Rick Morain for the Our Kids, Our Future – Greene County committee

Election Day for the Greene County Schools’ $21.48 million bond issue referendum is this coming Tuesday, April 3.

The bond would provide about 60 percent of the total cost of the $35.48 million project. The remaining funds for the proposal will come from tax increment financing (TIF) approved by the Greene County board of supervisors, grant funding from Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation, and future school funds already approved by the school district’s voters.

The large citizens’ committee promoting approval of the bond issue, “Our Kids, Our Future – Greene County,” has been giving presentations throughout the school district for the past several weeks. Attendees at the meetings have asked a number of questions about the proposal.

Answers to question asked at those presentations can be found on the Our Kids, Our Future website under its “FAQ” (frequently asked questions) icon.

The following questions and answers are also from the website:

1) Did the district consider creating a campus at the site of the current high school?

The district considered all possibilities, taking into consideration feedback offered during community meetings as well as cost estimates derived from analysis of our current facilities and the opportunities and limitations offered by various sites. Among these possibilities were locating all 5-12 students on the existing high school site, creating a single 5-12 campus off Highway 30, and continuing to maintain two sites for fifth through 12th grade.

While a single campus would save maintenance costs, the current high school building is still functional. With modifications to the entry and gym and upgrades throughout the building, the school will continue to serve the district for many years to come.

There is not sufficient acreage, though, to support an addition for middle school and a regional academy. And, abandoning the building for a single campus on the property off Highway 30 wouldn’t be fiscally responsible.

Therefore, the school board and district administration agreed to move forward with a plan to retrofit the existing high school for middle school and district administrative offices and build a new high school and regional academy off Highway 30.

This site is highly visible from the highway, which is attractive to both Iowa Central Community College and the district, and is flexible for long-term planning with the possibility of moving middle school to the same campus as well as expansions in the future.

In the long term, developing the existing high school site would have constrained future growth and posed traffic and parking challenges.

2) Initially, the proposed land site was to be donated and now the district would purchase the land. Why was this changed?

The land was never designated to be donated. Land acquisitions are a lengthy process, and the appraisal for the property is just now being completed with discussions to follow. The land purchase will NOT be part of the $21.48 million bond, but will be financed with SAVE district funds.

3) Why isn’t the $4.5 million from Grow Greene going toward lowering the bond amount versus funding the gym/auditorium (which was to be funded by private donations)?

The total project cost for the retrofitted high school, new high school, and regional academy is $35.48. Contributions from Grow Greene County as well as the Greene County board of supervisors have resulted in a lower tax burden for property owners. On April 3, voters will be asked to approve a bond for $21.48 million, which represents just 60 percent of the total project cost.

In a statement released by the Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation’s board of directors, the group noted that their $4.5 million pledge for the gymnasium and performing arts center encompasses their mission to positively grow Greene County for families and businesses to thrive, serve as a catalyst to leverage and coordinate resources, and provide opportunities for leadership and vision.

They also noted that the organization’s donation would address “concerns from the past school bond elections that included a competition gymnasium,” by taking that “tax burden off taxpayers in the Greene County School District.”

4) How is Pillar Technology’s recent announcement connected to the bond referendum?

Pillar Technology, a software development company based in Columbus, Ohio, with additional offices in Ann Arbor, Palo Alto and Des Moines, announced on March 8 that it had signed a letter of intent to open an office in Jefferson.

In addition, Pillar Technology intends to begin a software development training program in collaboration with Greene County Community School District, other neighboring K-12 school districts, and Iowa Central Community College. This training program will be a strand of education in the new regional academy proposed in the upcoming school bond referendum, which will go to vote on April 3.

If the bond doesn’t pass, Pillar’s commitment to open an office in Jefferson would likely be rescinded as its success in Greene County revolves around cultivating a skilled workforce.

5) Will the addition of the 41 windmill turbines in the northeast part of the school district have an impact on the tax rate for the bond referendum?

The turbines will have a positive impact on the tax rate for the bond referendum.

By law, property subject to tax increment financing (TIF) still pays taxes for the physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) and for the debt service levy. The debt service levy would be used to repay the bonds. Estimates of the total value of the 41 windmills have been shared with the school’s financial planner, Piper Jaffray.

As the value of the windmills is added to the total valuation of the school district, conservative estimates of the debt service levy rate are as follows: 2020 – $2.70; 2025 – $2.38; 2030 – $2.20; 2035 – $2.05; and 2039 – $1.94.

Any additional increase in valuation coming from additional windmills or other development would also result in a decrease to the debt service levy rate.

The school board would also have the option of continuing to levy the $2.70 rate and pay the bonds off in fewer than 20 years.

For a complete list of questions and answers, go to the “Our Kids, Our Future – Greene County” website and click on the “FAQ” icon. The website address is https://ourkidsourfuturegreenecounty.org .

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