BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Volunteers are currently seeking signatures to have a referendum put on an April ballot to construct a new preK-3rd elementary school in Fort Madison.
The effort to pass the bond referendum has been voted down two times, most recently in June of 2017.
The new referendum will be to authorize spending up to $30 million on the construction of the facility. That represents a $3 million increase over the last referendum due to an increase in construction costs on the project.
The district needs 166 signatures, and according to Superintendent Erin Slater, more than 40 signatures have already been collected. She said the question on the ballot will not change other than the price, and the scope of the project is remaining the same.
The Fort Madison Community School District Board of Directors hasn’t formally voted to put the issue back on the ballot, but that vote could be coming shortly.
Slater said she hopes to have enough signatures collected to present to the board at the Jan. 22 meeting, when the board would then be able to vote to have the referendum put on the ballot on April 3.
In June, district residents voted 56% in favor of building the new school, however state law requires a supermajority of 60% plus one vote for the measure to be approved.
Central Lee school district unveiled plans last week to ask voters for close to $10 million for construction in that district. No time frame was given on when that referendum would be put to voters.
Nikki Sugars, the Lee County deputy auditor and election’s administrator, said it cost the district $6,088 to put on the election in June. But she said with satellite polling the cost would increase.
She said the district could petition the county to do satellite, but it’s at the County Auditor Denise Fraise’s discretion to allow the early polling.
“Before the election takes place, we can have voting at satellite locations,” Sugars said. “Everybody in the district would be allowed to vote there. We did a satellite at the the high school MPR during the previous school referendums.”
Slater said nothing has been finalized out of the committee yet, but they have discussed the idea of using satellite polling to make voting more convenient for district residents and to try and garner the other 4% needed to approve the measure.
“We have not finalized any plans. Our first job is have signatures to present to the board and then we’ll talk about the specifics of plans,” she said. “But we have talked about using satellite polling for the convenience of voters.”
She said getting approval from the district on the third attempt will require re-engaging the community that came out and voted last time.
“We need to look at the turnout as far as demographics and those that didn’t vote and keep reaching out to them. We want to give them ample time and information and let them know where and when they can vote.”
The proposed new school would be located just east of the current Fort Madison Middle School just south of Bluff Road.