Bond issue to cost $3.2 million
by Rob Poggenklass · News · April 18, 2007

Project would include new heating, cooling systems at Hoover Elementary, A/C at WB Middle School

The asking amount and ballot language is set for a school bond issue, which voters of the West Branch Community School District will decide in an election this September.

Voters will consider whether the district can issue $3.2 million in bonds for geothermal heating and cooling systems at Hoover Elementary, and air conditioning at West Branch Middle School.

The ballot language was approved by a unanimous vote of the West Branch School Board last Thursday, April 12. It was the second in a series of formalities to prepare for the Sept. 11 bond election. Earlier this year, the school board hired Ahlers Law Firm of Des Moines to assist with planning for the bond issue.

The ballot language reads as follows:

“Shall the Board of Directors of the West Branch Community School District in the counties of Cedar and Johnson, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $3,200,000 to provide funds to improve, equip and implement energy improvements at the elementary building, which includes the purchase and installation of geothermal and HVAC systems, as well as to equip the middle school with air conditioning?”

If passed, the bond issue would allow the district to install central air conditioning at the elementary and middle schools for the very first time in West Branch. It would also allow the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system at Hoover Elementary, a system employed by many school districts because of long-term cost savings over existing systems.

Sixty percent of voters must approve for the bond issue to pass.

Because board members and administration cannot promote passage of the bond issue to the community, the district is looking for volunteers to lead an informational campaign for passage of the bond issue over the next five months before the vote. The board is expected to appoint a chair to lead the campaign, but has left open the opportunity for any number of volunteers to get involved.

Duties of the group will include collecting a number of voter signatures on a petition, which will then be presented to the board. While that required number of signatures is small — 25 percent of voters in the last school board election — the group will also play the more important role of informing school district voters about the bond issue.

One consideration will be whether voters want to do a 10-, 15- or 20-year bond. Although a 20-year bond would have the least impact on property tax rates in the short run, it would cost the most in the long run because taxpayers will be paying more in interest.

A 20-year bond would increase the school tax levy by $1.13 per $1,000 valuation. A 15-year bond would increase the levy by $1.37 per $1,000 valuation. A 10-year bond would increase it by $1.93 per $1,000 valuation.

The school board can decide whether to go with 10-, 15- or 20-year bond notes before or after the election. The question becomes: Do voters want to pay more now and get ride of the debt, or pay less in the short term and more in the long term? Or, do voters want to take the middle road — the 15-year bond?

Several board members suggested that their decision about the duration of the bond notes will be largely based on what voters tell them.

In other business, the school board:

• Certified the district’s 2007-08 budget.The tax levy is up two cents, to $13.44 per $1,000 valuation. The levy was $13.42 last year and $13.43 two years ago.

The total property taxes collected by the district will be $2.86 million, up from $2.79 million last year.

• Heard from Deb McCarthy, school nurse, who said that the school must begin to enforce the vaccination policy that is in the Iowa Code. McCarthy said that between 18 and 22 West Branch students have not provided proof of required vaccinations, as required by state law. McCarthy will attend the upcoming kindergarten round-ups, where she will provide vaccination information to parents of incoming students. “My goal is to have us be in full compliance with the law,” she said.

• Accepted the resignations of teachers Laura Gallagher and Julie Staab, and the half-time resignations of Karen Rushton and Eulyn Frostestad.

• Approved contracts for Carrie Arlen, middle school language arts; and Kelli Kennon, high school English and journalism. Arlen is a Wilton native who graduated from Iowa State University, and has taught for the last two years at Mediapolis. Kennon is a Maynard native who will graduate from Wartburg College this year.

• Approved the purchase of a 66-passenger bus from School Bus Sales for $69,992. The bus will replace a 1982 International, the last of the district’s 12-bus fleet with more than 200,000 miles on it.

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