Ad Hoc committee to present findings to FMCSD board at Feb. 1 meeting
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Community School district wrapped up a series of four community virtual panels to discuss the district’s proposed facility upgrade, on Thursday afternoon.
The scenario currently being proposed is to move all PreK -6th grade into the Fort Madison Middle School with $10.3 million in additions and site work. Seventh and eighth grade students would be moved into the current Fort Madison High School with $41.1 million in additions, renovations, site work, and physical needs.
All of the middle school work and $14.7 million of the high school work would be done the first phase of the project. That would be funded with the $8.8 million of the current voted Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, and about $16 million from an extension of the SAVE funds through 2051.
This phase would require no additional tax burden on district tax payers.
The second phase, which includes the remainder of the high school work, would require additional funding.
Options for that funding would be a possible third extension of the SAVE funds by the state, another voted PPEL levy, a general obligation bond, or the district’s cash reserves – or a combination of options.
Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said everything would be on the table at that point, including another shot at a general obligation bond, which would be for approximately $26.5 million.
District voters have shot down the previous four attempts at g.o. bond referendums due in part to the state’s requirement for a super-majority of 60%+1.
“The voted PPEL and SAVE money would fund phase 1. And then once phase 1 is conplete, or maybe throughout phase 1, we will re-examine district finances to see what opportunities there are for funding in phase 2,” Slater said.
“It could be a g.o. bond or other finances of those categories. This would be a couple years out so we need to see where our district finances are then, and at that point everything will be on the table to fund phase 2.”
Slater said the district will be able to function in the PreK-6th grade and 7-12 models within Phase 1.
“Everything needed for the transition to PreK-6 and 7-12 for programs and learning space is accomplished in Phase 1,” she said.
Slater said she feels the enhanced facilities study and the ad hoc committees considerations have yielded a scenario that is better than building a new elementary, which has been the focus of the last referendums for bonding.
The ad hoc committee will be making a presentation to the school board on Feb. 1. The board will then vote on the project at it’s March 15 meeting, 13 days after voters have decided on a Revenue Purpose Statement ballot, March 2.
If approved with 50%+1 majority, the RPS will give the district the capability to issue bonds against the 1-cent SAVE tax funds through 2051. Currently, the district’s control over those funds ends in 2031.
The district will still receive the funds from the state, but must use the funds in state mandated priorites, which do include facility improvements.
The ad-hoc committee has been meeting for two months going over data produced by the facilities assessment and pared down six different scenarios.
Committee member Joni Mclees said she got on the board to help get the new elementary built, but now sees this as a better option for the district.
“I went into this committee focused on getting that elementary built out there by the Middle School. And through this process I learned so much, and I’m almost thankful that it forced us to focus on everything and come up with this better solution.”
Slater said she sees the new idea as a better alternative to a new elementary school.
“This is a better solution. If you asked me that a couple years ago, I wouldn’t have said that,” Slater said.
“The Prek-3 option didn’t allow for anything to happen at the High School or Middle School. This impacts improvements for every child in this district. We aren’t settling – this is a better plan based on data.”