BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – Central Lee school officials will be holding community meetings starting this week to talk about a $9.8 million referendum to update district facilities.
Projected improvements in the district total $13.3 million, but the district will be using $200,000 already in place from one cent sales tax funds, coupled with $3.3 million in anticipated sales tax funds and the $9.8 million the district hopes to bond for the improvements.
Tara Sides, the publicity chairman for the committee pushing the referendum, said the main focus is on security upgrades.
“We must have safer schools,” Sides said Monday. “The main issue is safety. We have to build new main entrances that are locked. Today you can walk clear through the school and no one would stop you.” she said. “With what happened in Florida this week, we have to make our school safer.”
The referendum committee will be holding the first of three scheduled community meetings at the Central Lee High School Wednesday at 6 p.m. The committee has scheduled two other meetings, both beginning at 6 p.m.
Sides said the referendum will also help improve traffic flow at the building.
“Right now it might take you a 1/2 hour to get the through the loop out there picking up or dropping off your kids because you have parents and buses all in there together.” Sides said, “We have plans to put in two more lanes to make that more efficient and then add more staff parking space to help alleviate some of the congestion.”
Bond funds are also being earmarked for new agriculture/FFA classrooms, a new fine arts space, and a new 1,250 seat Performance/Athletic gymnasium. Plans also include a new early childhood center.
Sides said there has been some misinformation about the bond being specifically to get a new high school gymnasium. She said the high school will be getting a new gym, but that cost only represents 20% of the project funding. The junior high will move activities into the high school gym which currently seats about 700 and the high school activities will be in the newly constructed gym.
“The one opposition we’re hearing is about the gym, which will also be a performance arts gym. At this point we’ve outgrown that gymnasium and, you know if you’ve been in there, that people are standing in the corners and on the stage trying to watch the events,” she said. “But 80% of these funds are going to be spent on education and traffic improvements.”
According to an information sheet provided by the committee outlining the tax impact to district, property owners would pay $2.70/$1,000 of assessed valuation. That valuation is currently reduced by a Jan. 1, 2017 55.6% roll back and homestead credits of $4,850 to create a net assessed valuation. A home assessed at $100,000 would only be taxed on $50,752 according to the sheet. That $100,000 home would see a net change in their tax bill of $11.42 or $137.03 per year at current levy rates. Commercial property with the same assessed valuation would see an increase of $20.25 per month. Agricultural land would see an increase of .11/per acre.
“80% of these funds are going to educational and traffic updates,” Sides said. “We want people to get as much education as they can. After our meeting Wednesday night, we will have on our Central Lee webpage, a virtual reality link of what this thing will look like. They can see the additional lanes and what the building will look like. Everyone will be able to see it and that should help people understand more about the project.”
“My biggest thing is our high school has not been updated since the late 60s or early 70s and the middle school hasn’t been upgraded since the 80s.”
She said the district decided to put the referendum issue in front of voters in April, so, if passed, bids could be let in the spring and construction could possibly begin in the fall.