Voters approve school bond issue

Voters in the Greene County Community School District approved a $21.48 million bond issue to fund construction of a new high school with a career center adjacent, and to renovate the current high school as a middle school.

The vote was 1,960 in favor, (68.68 percent), and 894 against (31.32 percent). The referendum required a 60 percent approval to pass.

Voter turnout for the entire district was 51.74 percent.

Voters in the Jefferson precinct approved the bond issue 1,604 “yes” to 511 “no” or 75.84 percent to 24.16 percent. Voter turnout in the Jefferson precinct was 55.48 percent.

The overwhelming majority in Jefferson carried the issue, as it passed only narrowly in Scranton and failed in Grand Junction. Rippey voters are now part of the Grand Junction precinct.

The vote in Scranton was 142 (52.59 percent) in favor and 128 (47.41 percent) against. The 270 votes represented 42.99 percent voter turnout.

Voters in Grand Junction/Rippey rejected the measure, with 255 votes (54.37 percent) against and 214 votes (45.63 percent) in favor.  Voter turnout was 43.59 percent.

The 79 members of the Our Kids, Our Future – Greene County committee have worked tirelessly promoting the bond issue since the ballot language was approved in mid-February. The committee was chaired by Keith Van Beek and Bill and Peg Raney. Chris Deal and Sid Jones introduced the concept to the school board, administrators and the public, and did much of the “heavy lifting” on the project to date.

Conceptual drawing of the front of the high school | OPN Architects

The $21.48 million bond issue will pay for about 60 percent of the total project price tag of $35.48 million. The remaining $14 million will come from the school district’s physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) fund and the 1-cent sales tax; $5 million in tax increment financing committed by the county board of supervisors, with the increment being the first 43 MidAmerican wind turbines; and a $4.5 million pledge from Grow Greene County.

The county’s TIF funds will pay for the adjacent regional academy, with Iowa Central Community College equipping and staffing it.

Grow Greene County’s funds will go toward the competition gym and the 700-seat performing arts center in the new high school.

The needed renovations at the current high school are pegged at $1.7 million.

With approval of the bond referendum, the school board will amend the proposed budget to include the $2.70 (per thousand of assessed valuation) that voters approved as debt levy to repay the bonds. That will take place at a special meeting already scheduled for April 11 to hold the required public hearing on the budget. The 2018-19 budget must be approved and certified to the state by April 15.

OPN Architects will begin design work immediately. (Design done in advance of the bond referendum was conceptual, not final.) The site of the new building, on the south side of Highway 30 east of Grimmell Road in the northwest corner of Jefferson, will be planted in row crops one final time this spring. Site work will begin after harvest.

The district plans to have the new high school and regional academy, along with the renovated middle school on the south edge of Jefferson, ready by August 2020.

Voters failed twice to approve a bond issue for a new high school adjacent to the current high school, also with a renovation to allow the 1966 high school to serve as a middle school. In September 2015, the referendum for a $20 million bond issue failed with 975 votes against and 649 votes in favor. The issue didn’t carry in any precinct. Voter turnout in that election was 28.6 percent.

The Pay It Forward committee promoted a $19.4 million bond referendum in September 2016. The ballot question was very similar to the 2015 question. Voters approved it 1,161 to 1,026.  That was a 53.09 percent majority, not the 60 percent needed for a bond issue. Voter turnout was 38.53 percent.

Neither of the earlier questions included a regional academy. From the earliest discussions of the third referendum last fall, promoters hoped the addition of the academy, which brings to Greene County  technical and vocational training at the community college level, would make the difference. Jones and Deal were instrumental in securing outside funding for the gymnasium and performing arts center at the new school, allowing the Our Kids, Our Future committee to focus on the educational benefits to the children and the potential economic benefits to the community should the $21.48 million bond issue be approved.

 

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