Board moves toward bond

BELLEVUE (AP) — Bellevue Community School Board members this week gave the go-ahead to begin the process to ask voters to approve a $16 million bond measure for a new school.

Residents would be asked to vote on the matter during a special election Sept. 11.

This week, board members were updated on plans to build a new elementary school for preschool to fifth grade to replace the aging structure in downtown Bellevue.

The current building was constructed in 1848 and was Jackson County’s first courthouse. More than 20 years later, it was converted to a school and has been expanded and remodeled several times.

“It’s an educational need,” Superintendent Tom Meyer said. “There’s a safety issue, and we just need more space. Learning areas are bigger than they used to be with hands-on projects.”

Community meetings were held last fall with more than 100 people attending. The consensus of the group was to build a new elementary school on another site rather than renovate the current building. School officials have looked at several sites, but have not announced any locations.

Currently, Bellevue Elementary School has 350 students in preschool through fifth grade. Meyer said he anticipates the enrollment to remain steady over the next few years.

Meyer pointed out that there is no grass on the current elementary school’s concrete playground and a street has to be closed each day to allow for additional physical education programs. There also are limited options to renovate for more outlets for computers and other electronics.

Meyer said school leaders are talking with two Dubuque companies about using the existing building.

“It could become county offices, senior housing, day care, a recreation center, community meeting room or a combination of all of them. We will do what the community wants,” Meyer said.

He said the next step is for a community group to get petitions to present to the board at its June meeting asking that a referendum be placed on the September ballot. Meyer said they need 50 signatures, but will ask for more.

To pass, the $16 million bond issue would need to be approved by 60 percent of voters.

Also on the ballot will be a question allowing the district to increase its debt service levy from the current $2.70 per $1,000 assessed valuation to $4.05 per $1,000. That also will require at least 60 percent support to pass.

Meyer said the average price of a home in Bellevue is about $200,000. If the bond issue passes, it could mean an increase of taxes of $35 per month. The current school levy is $12.26 per $1,000 assessed valuation.