WHY ARE WE VOTING ON JUNE 25?
A facility committee of Alburnett residents convened by the Alburnett Community School District and the Board of Education have identified a solution to meet immediate and long-range facility needs in the district that must be addressed for the health, safety, and education of all district students.
This plan would be funded by a general obligation bond of $11.64 million, which must be approved by a 60% majority.
WHY A FACILITY STUDY AND WHY NOW?
Foremost, we are out of space. There are approximately 715 students in our building each day. The number of spaces and classrooms needed to support the academic programs of today have pushed us to maximum capacity. Additionally, many spaces in our facilities need repair and/or do not match the way students are learning.
The cost of this project will only increase with time, while the existing facilities will continue to deteriorate. Because the Alburnett School Board has been aggressively paying down the principal on the 2007 General Obligation bond, we have saved $395,978 in interest and will pay it off seven years early. This allows us to consider a new General Obligation bond that could begin in 2021.
The Alburnett School Board voted on March 28 to accept the Facilities Committee’s proposed plan. On April 30, the board received a petition from the committee asking the board to call an election. The board took action on April 30 to call for an election, which is now officially set for June 25, 2019.
WHAT WILL THE PROJECT INCLUDE?
The proposed plan will impact learning spaces for all ages at Alburnett. It will improve upon the existing facilities at the elementary and secondary schools through renovations as well as additions. The agricultural and industrial technology spaces will be relocated to an addition to the northwest adjacent to the greenhouse. A new auditorium at the southeast corner will replace the insufficient space in the existing small gym and allow the consolidation of music spaces co-located with the auditorium. As a result of the renovations and additions, we will be adding 10 additional classrooms. We also will improve the safety, security, function, and overall aesthetic of our school facilities. Most importantly, though, we will be adding and improving spaces to support education and create opportunities for our students.
HOW WILL THIS IMPACT EDUCATION IN ALBURNETT?
While we have much to be proud of with past facility updates, many spaces in our school aren’t conducive to today’s learning and teaching. Rows of desks, overhead projectors, chalk boards and books no longer describe today’s learning environments. In the digital era, the educational landscape is rapidly transforming. This and future generations will associate schools more with community, technology, creativity, and collaboration. While we cannot predict future changes to curriculum and technology that will inevitably happen, with these renovation and additions we will have facilities that are designed to avoid early obsolescence with flexible, open spaces that are clearly organized, accessible, and easily adaptable. We will also be providing our students with learning environments on par with their peers in other area districts, arming them with opportunities that will prepare them for their next chapter.
HOW WILL WE PAY FOR IT?
This plan will cost $11.64 million. To fund this plan, the school board has decided to ask residents of the Alburnett Community School District to approve a General Obligation Bond, which will increase property taxes.
The current Alburnett school board and district leadership have been careful stewards both tax payer and state revenue streams. Alburnett’s tax levy has routinely ranked well below peer districts. By being fiscally responsible, the district was able to reduce the levy rate for 2020. As a result, when the bond passes, the rate will be $3.21 LOWER than the district’s highest rate of $18.87 in 2014.
WHAT WILL I BE VOTING ON JUNE 25?
On June 25, a date predetermined by state law, residents of the district will be asked to vote on the following referendum. Sixty-percent of voters must approve of the referendum for it to pass:
Shall the Board of Directors of the Alburnett Community School District in the County of Linn, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $11,640,000 to provide funds to renovate, remodel, repair, improve, furnish, and equip portions of its existing building, and to construct, build, erect, furnish, and equip additions to the existing building, including related remodeling and site improvements?
Shall the Board of Directors of the Alburnett Community School District in the County of Linn, State of Iowa, be authorized to levy annually a tax exceeding Two Dollars and Seventy Cents ($2.70) per Thousand Dollars ($1,000), but not exceeding Four Dollars and Five Cents ($4.05) per Thousand Dollars ($1,000) of the assessed value of the taxable property within said school corporation to pay the principal of and interest on bonded indebtedness of said school corporation, it being understood that the approval of this proposition shall not limit the source of payment of the bonds and interest, but shall only operate to restrict the amount of bonds which may be issued?
Why are there 2 questions?
The two questions on the ballot work together. The first question describes, in general terms, the type of improvements being proposed and the estimated amount needed to bond in order to complete the project. The second question asks for the ability to levy to fund the project, specifically the ability to levy up to $4.05 per $1,000 of assessed value.
HOW DO I REQUEST AN ABSENTEE BALLOT BY MAIL
Requesting and voting by absentee ballot through the mail is an easy way to get your ballot mailed to your home or other destination if you are a registered voter in Linn County. Voting by mail allows you the convenience of voting from the comforts of home.
Click HERE to download the request form from the Linn County Election Services’ website. An original, hard copy request for a ballot must received by the Linn County Election Services Office by 5 p.m. on June 14, which is 11 days before the June 25 election.
No email or fax requests will be accepted unless followed by the original, in which case it must be received by the Election Services Office by the time the polls close on June 25.
Linn County Election Services
935 Second Street SW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404-2100
When your ballot arrives, there will be additional items inside the delivery envelope:
- A ballot for your precinct.
- Instructions on how to complete your absentee ballot along with important dates related to absentee voting.
- Secrecy folder to keep your voted ballot a secret.
- A combined Affidavit/Return Envelope, which requires your signature on the backside. The returned envelope is postage paid.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MY TAXES?
If approved, taxes would increase by $1.89 per thousand dollars of taxable valuation. Taxable value is not the same as market value. It is also not the same as the assessed value. The taxable value is the value determined by the auditor after application of state-ordered “rollback” percentages for the various classes of property and is the value indicated on the tax statement.
For example, a home with an assessed value of $100,000, after rollbacks and homestead credits have been applied, has a taxable value of $56,981. A $1.89 increase per $1,000 would result in an annual change of $117.24, or the equivalent of $9.77 per month. The average assessed value of Linn County farmland in 2019 will be approximately $2,077. After rollback, the average taxable value is $1,131, resulting in an annual increase of approximately $0.40 per acre annually. If successful, our new tax rate of $15.66 would not take effect until 2021.
Tax increase – $1.89 or $4.05 – Which is it?
The estimated increase per $1,000 of valuation is $1.89.
We are currently on the last year of paying an existing debt service levy for a general obligation bond. Since the beginning of that bond in 2007, our debt service levy has been used to make the required payments and recently to also pay off the debt early.
An $11.64 million bond will be funded by a $4.05 debt service levy, but because there are other factors involved in the overall tax rate, including the end of the current debt service levy, the answer is that the estimated tax increase is $1.89.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
After months of conversations around the future of education in Alburnett, the school board hired OPN Architects in December 2018 to conduct assessments of the current facilities and propose options for the district’s existing facility needs. Concurrently, in January, a group of 25 community members formed a facilities committee. Using the result of OPN’s assessments and analysis of both current and future needs, the committee reviewed all scenarios proposed by the design team and arrived at a long-term solution that addressed the most immediate needs of the district’s aging facilities, while also looking to the future needs.
How will these additions affect access and parking?
Parking will be addressed as part of this plan. The project budget will include funding for an additional 100 parking spots. The district is exploring opportunities for the location of the additional spots. Preliminary test fits confirm that the proposed additions will fit on the site. The design team includes civil engineers, who will work with the district to identify improved access and traffic patterns as the design of the additions take shape following a successful bond vote.
What will the renovations and additions look like?
As part of the project, most of the school will see general improvements to the walls, floors, lighting, and furnishings. This includes nearly all bathrooms. Renovated spaces will include a PK-12 media center on the first floor centrally located near the small gym. The existing media centers will become classrooms, as will the existing secondary music room. The stage of the small gym will be reclaimed and transformed into classrooms as well. The family and consumer science room will be upgraded. Renovated classrooms throughout the school will range in size from 800 to 1,000 square feet depending on the function. By comparison, many current classrooms are around 600 square feet.
The new 7,800-square-foot agriculture and industrial tech wing will have a secure entrance and larger classrooms for hands-on collaborative learning conducive to vocational tech programs. The proposed design will emulate the existing exterior of that portion of the school and will be flexible for future expansion to the west.
At the front of the school, in the space now occupied by the ag/tech wing, another addition will create an auditorium and music room. This nearly 13,000-square-foot addition will create an opportunity to improve the school’s main entrance as well. The auditorium will accommodate 500 seats. A lobby off the entrance will accommodate pre-function gatherings and will allow for the majority of the school to be closed off during events.
Yes, but what will it actually look like?
The honest answer is we don’t know yet. And, that’s a good thing. Typical pre-referendum design includes programming – the process by which architects determine space requirements – and floor plans representing the results of the program analysisAfter the bond passes, the real design work starts going from concept to schematic design, to construction documents (also known as architectural drawings) and ultimately construction. Schools reflect a community’s personality, pride, and philosophies. Before the design of Alburnett’s new spaces, OPN Architects will spend time getting to know the community’s collective vision for how the building will be used and what each space should provide. OPN Architects will help Alburnett analyze, assess, and synthesize data, methodologies, and facilities to create a blend of physical, digital, and immersive environments that enable your staff to teach and mentor the next generation of innovators, creators, collaborators, and leaders.
Why do we need an auditorium?
The Alburnett school is the heart of our communities. As such, it is a natural gathering place for a myriad events. An auditorium will serve more than the school. Like the rest of the facilities, it will be open to the community. The school district will use the space for more than music and dramatic performances. Auditoriums are more than performance venues. They are large classrooms for fine arts and technology programs. It will also fill an unmet need in the district for a space to host other events for large audiences – speakers, presentations, professional development days, etc … — without monopolizing gym space. The new auditorium will also be safer and more comfortable than our existing performance space in the small gym.
What about the gym?
A critical part of this facilities assessment process has been the investigation of multiple scenarios and solutions. The proposed plan is one that the facilities committee recommended to the school board because it believed it was the best solution for our district and community. It preserves the small gym for community use because the committee understood and acknowledged that the gym serves an important role for recreational sports in our community.
What will happen to the existing softball fields?
The district is exploring opportunities to relocate the fields to accommodate new traffic patterns on the site.
How will this project improve safety and security?
Alburnett already has a secure main entrance with the office located at the front of the school requiring all visitors to check in before entering. These doors are locked during the day, so visitors must also be buzzed in. As a result of this project, we will be able to enhance these security measures with doors that can lock at the flip of a single switch as well as security cameras. We will also be upgrading the fire alarm and communication systems.
How do school facilities affect economic development?
Schools are integrally tied to a community’s economic vitality. According to a recent study by real estate search engine Trulia and Harris Interactive, the majority (57 percent) of parents with children under 18 would pay above listing price to live in the neighborhood with ideal schools. As Alburnett looks to the future, school facilities that match the caliber of education we provide our students, will play a critical role in the growth of our communities.
Why can’t we pay for these improvements without a bond vote?
School district funding is a complicated issue. While generally it is considered wise to save money for a rainy day – or in this case a large expense – school districts are not legally allowed to stockpile large savings accounts. As a protection for tax payers, they are encouraged by law to operate in such a way that they spend all that they bring in each year. This general fund is used to pay salaries and buy supplies. Think of it like a checking account for day-to-day expenses. Other funding streams include PPEL, which can be used to improve ground and buildings; and the 1-cent sales tax (SAVE), which can be used for capital projects. It is possible to use these funds for large-scale building projects. Alburnett’s last expansion was funded by SAVE. Remaining SAVE revenue must be maintained to allow for a cushion should the district need to fix a broken window or replace a piece of equipment, for example. That is why, at this time, the school board has determined that the most fiscally responsible option is to ask voters to approve a general obligation bond.