November 26, 2021

CCSD board nears decision on facility improvements

The Creston Community School Board is inching toward finalizing a plan to update district facilities now that two proposals and a few alternate conception drawings have surfaced from facility advisory committees – consisting of district staff, students and community members – during a board work session Tuesday.

“There’s no finality to it,” said Eric Beron of Des Moines-based design firm DLR Group. “You’re going to see a a couple of different options and a couple of different ways to proceed.”

Beron told the board the concepts presented are the narrowed down versions, resulting from the forums, surveys and meetings that started in July.

“We’ve had four dedicated workshops, we’ve had student forums, we’ve had staff forums. We’ve had a staff survey that went out to the district. We’ve met with the administration. We’ve met with a lot of different entities over the course of the last six months to get to this point today,” he said. “So whatever we come to, this isn’t something that was done over night. This has been done with a lot of thought and care from the committee.”

Of the plans presented, the board showed interest, but has yet to decide, in a $36.3 million proposal that would add an addition on to the elementary/middle school building and move the Early Childhood Center there. With the addition of the ECC to the elementary school, but middle school could be moved to an addition to the high school facility. The proposal also includes a performing arts and athletic addition at the high school, which is inclusive of a music rehearsal space, an 1,800 seat field house, 3-lane walking track, stadium concessions, training room and officials’ locker room. The proposal also includes a list of phased improvements estimated at another $15.9 million.

Bond

Travis Squires, managing director with Piper Sandler reviewed the district’s financial capabilities and options and said the district does not have to wait to pay off its current debt before pursuing a new bond. The district’s debt limit would be about $43 million.

For a $36.3 million project, Squires said a general obligation (GO) bonds could account for $22.5 million which would require a referendum vote with 60% voter approval. The GO bond would have no net tax rate impact. The overall levy rate stays the same as fiscal year 2022 for Creston residents, however, Prescott residents would see the addition of the levy.

A second option would be $11.4 million sales tax bonds (SAVE). A simple majority is needed to approve the revenue purpose statement and a complete public hearing process would be needed for the project. There is no tax rate impact. This option would commit nearly 50% of the current revenues for the next 20 years.

A third option would be $2.4 million in sales tax cash which could be cash committed over the next three years of the $3 million on hand.

Squires said if the district does not vote a new bond issue, the tax rate will go down. But he explained more.

The district currently has two bonds, but the final payment on the last one would be in early 2023. Should a bond pass, the levy created by the new bond would have Creston residents paying the same levy rate in 2023 as they currently do for CCSD.

“I think it’s important to frame everything around education and facilities,” emphasized Superintendent Deron Stender. “I think we use the language a lot as facilities, but this isn’t about facilities. It’s about the kids, staff members, community and guests that come to our facilities and what you want that to look like as a community and what are your expectations of the district to be able to carry forward that vision that would help us hopefully prosper.”

Board member Sharon Snodgrass said she thinks the board needs time to digest the information presented during the nearly 3 hour meeting. The board agreed to look at possible dates to hold a special meeting in December to further discuss the proposals presented with the goal of making a decision of which plan to choose and what financing option to select.

Stender reminded the board that delaying a decision just means the district would put off pursuing a bond until September, which is an option for the district, but Squires reminded them that it may be difficult to secure the financing needed.

“Because of the way the district budget cycle is set up, if you wait until September, you likely can not sell the bonds until the spring, so it’s a full wait on bond sale because you’ll miss the budget. You might be able to sell a portion of them,” Squires said.

Board member Galen Zumbach added that Interest rates are favorable now.

The next scheduled Creston Community School Board meeting is 6 p.m. Dec. 20.

Sarah Scull

SARAH SCULL

Sarah Scull is a San Diego transplant living in Creston, Iowa. Sarah joined the Creston News Advertiser editorial staff as a reporter in in 2012 and was promoted to managing editor in November 2018. After two years in that role, she has since become associate editor to spend her time doing what she loves – writing and photography.