The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 25, 2013

Northeast looks ahead to bond referendum

April 2 vote seeks $7.5 million to support athletic field, parking areas and new science, athletic wing

By Janet Huffman
Herald Correspondent

GOOSE LAKE — “This will solidify the future of your school,” Superintendent James Cox told a small group of Northeast School District residents at an information meeting last week.

On April 2 a special election will be held to decide a $7.5 million bond referendum to support new athletic fields, new parking areas (about 120-140 spaces), and a new science and athletic wing.

The scope of the project includes four new science rooms needed to accommodate new methods of teaching science, an 1,800- to 2,000-capacity gymnasium capable of dividing into three courts, a new regulation baseball field, new concession area and restrooms, a new community fitness area, and an addition to and remodeling of the weight room.

Representatives of Modern Design Architects presented conceptual plans with 17 areas of new building or renovation. If the referendum is approved, design work begins in April and June, with construction work on the new baseball field beginning in June/July and completed in August. Construction of the new science and athletic wing is slated to begin in September. In 2014 the baseball field is anticipated to be used for the season; the science and athletic wing are scheduled for completion in December 2014.

Questions from the audience involved bleacher space and science room space. Concession space was a concern for the athletic boosters. All were assured that the conceptual design would be refined as the project progressed.

Cox told the audience, bids would determine some of the project's facets. If low bids, alternates could be financed, and, if high, there will be revisions and changes. He noted that currently advantages in prices on materials, such as concrete block, were available.

He added air conditioning will be in all buildings and alternate bids for safety measures were expected.

Then Cox asked the audience, “How do you build something like this and still reduce taxes?” At that point he turned the meeting over to Matt Gillaspie of Piper Jaffray and Co. of Des Moines, the district's financial consultants.

Gillaspie said the district's debt levy will not increase because bonds for the elementary school will be paid. Based on the current tax valuation of $175,329,902 and an assumed growth rate of 1.5 percent, the debt levy rate should go down. He also said interest rates were very low so there is less paid in interest.

His estimates and calculations were conservative, Gillaspie said, but not guaranteed. Fluctuations in rates could occur until the bonds are sold in May or June, after which rates are fixed and payments set. Taxes would continue for a longer period because the bonds are for 20 years. If the bond referendum fails, the district could be debt free in three years.

Gillaspie said property valuations generally go up, which means the tax rate goes down. Also noted was the money must be used to do what the ballot says and to repay the bonds; there will not be a huge reduction, but there will be a decrease in taxes; and the school levy rate does not encompass city, county, etc. rates. Another information meeting is set for March 27.

Cox also spoke to the second question on the ballot: a vote to renew and increase the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy to 67 cents per taxable valuation. The current rate is at 33 cents, which means the new rate would increase by 34 cents. Cox said he is asking for the raise to cover the cost of a new custodian. If the proposition fails, the cost must be covered from other funds. The PPEL is in effect for 10 years.

Prior to the information meeting, the board met in regular session. Cox noted 43 open enrollment requests, including 25 from Easton Valley and 10 from Clinton.

The board approved contracting with Seven Citadels of Omaha at a cost of $5,000 to review school safety measures, a needs assessment to meet Iowa Code at a cost of $1,200, and a renewed agreement with Timberline for Medicaid reimbursement through 2016. The district has received about $200,000 in reimbursements.

A budget hearing was set for April 9, and April 23 was set for the next board meeting. The proposed budget tax rate of $14.79733, about 12 cents less than the current rate, includes successful votes on the $7.5 million referendum and the PPEL fund. The budget is based on 4 percent allowable growth and can be reduced if that amount is not passed by the state legislature. Also it can be changed if the referendum does not pass.

Kristy Weiss was approved as Northeast's new business manager and was sworn in as board secretary.

The board accepted the resignations of Steve Farrell as head high school wrestling coach and fourth-grade teacher Michelle Jacobsen. It employed as shared boys golf coach Jennifer Huling and Kathryn Hass, as girls golf coach Mary Frazier, and Joel Allen as head middle school football coach.