BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – The Central Lee school board voted Monday night to put a $12.9 million bond referendum in front of district voters on Sept. 10, 2019.
At the board’s regular meeting the board passed a resolution to issue general obligation bonds not to exceed the $12.9 million to upgrade and add onto current district facilities.
The district tried to pass a bond referendum in April of last year, but failed to reach the state-mandated supermajority of 60% + one vote. The measure had 701 yes votes to 542 no votes for a 56.4% approval.
Crozier said that referendum would have bumped district taxpayers’ school levy by $1.80/$1,000 assessed valuation. He said this year is a different conversation, but there won’t be an increase and preliminary figures show the district will be able to ask for the same $12.19/$1,000 that they had last year.
“There’ll be no property tax increase because of that (passing),” Crozier said.
The $12.9 million bond will carry a debt impact on tax bills of $2.70/$1,000, but he said if the bond fails it wouldn’t guarantee a reduction in the tax bill of $2.70.
“There are many pieces that we’d have to consider – income surtax, management funds – all those pieces. We can choose not to be conservative over the next few years and it can be constant, but the biggest impact for us compared to when we did this a year ago is our valuations went up 24%,” he said.
“In my eight years being a superintendent, I’ve never had valuations increase more than 4% until this year and it’s 24%. It’s almost like living in Waukee for a change. It’s unbelievable. So some things have worked in our favor.”
He said another piece taxpayers have to consider is the district won’t be using state SAVE funds to guarantee the bonds. General obligation bonds are paid for from the debt levy on property taxes, but Central Lee uses the SAVE funds to reduce property taxes.
Crozier said he feels more confident in the issue this time around because there is no increase in property taxes and people in the district see the need.
“This is a much different conversation when you’re talking about $1.80 vs. a no property tax increase. I think that’s helpful,” he said.
“I think the people of this district see the need’s here and see that we have a great opportunity to improve our facilities for the next several years. We were so close asking for $1.80 and we worked hard to get to a no property increase on this vote.”
Crozier said the top priority is improving the safety and security of the students. He said new office spaces would be created at the front of the buildings causing every visitor to go through a double door system that forces people to go through the office before being allowed into the school itself.
Central Lee had a school resource officer on-site during school hours. The officer was Tom Obermann of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and said, despite the increased security, the district would keep the SRO on the premises.
“Heck yeah I would. We didn’t have any crisis issues, but we had a few issues were we got Tommy down to the office and if it was at the high school he was meeting them at the door. That question has come up a couple times.”
The district is in a three-year 28E agreement with the sheriff’s department for the SRO.
The funds will also allow for some additional renovations and common space for easier flow of students through the hallways, a new competition/performance gymnasium, two new rooms for fine arts, renovations of the K-8 building for a new early childhood center, and improved parking and traffic flow on the campus.
He said the gymnasium can be polarizing, but the current gym doesn’t meet the needs of the district.
“We just know we need a bigger space. I know not everyone likes the idea because it’s expensive because it’s a big square footage, but this give us what we need, hopefully, for the next hundred years.”
The district has already committed to renovating family consumer science space and the ag room, outside of the bond funds.
“Those will be done by the district and are not being paid for out of the 12.9 million but are a part of our total master facility plan,” Crozier said.
The district has also budgeted for another traffic lane from the high school to the K-8.
“That’s another one where we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We know it’s an issue and we can afford to do it right now with our current revenue so we’re just taking that off the referendum and doing it ourselves,” Crozier said.