May 23, 2022

Creston Schools to seek $24 million bond

Levy to remain the same for Union residents despite multi-million price tag

March 1, Creston Community Schools will ask voters to vote ‘Yes’ on a $24,900,000 bond.

During a special meeting just after noon Friday, Creston Community School board approved the resolution for a revenue purpose statement, ordering an election on the issuance of a $24,900,000 general obligation school bond and on a revenue purpose statement to authorize expenditures from revenue from the State Secure and Advanced Vision for Education Fund, and ordering of the publication of a notice of election.

Billie Jo Greene, business manager, said signatures of at least 25%, or 298, of qualified voters were needed to hold the special elections. The district received 388 signatures.

“There was 418 on the petition but we had to eliminate some due to qualifications,” she said.

Board members Galen Zumbach moved to approve the resolution and Amanda Mohr seconded.

What’s included

In December, the board identified educational and facilities projects it hoped to move forward, based on nearly a year of meeting with focus groups comprised of educators, administrators and students, alike. Those plans totaled more than $40 million.

The primary projects covered with the general obligation bond include a new Early Childhood Center addition to elementary and middle school at an estimate of $17.85 million.

The estimate to repair the ECC is $16 million. The estimated cost for duplicated services which includes transportation, food service, custodial, support, and administration is $250,000. The proposed model provides operational efficiencies and allows for cost savings to be redistributed to other existing facilities.

Performing arts improvements is estimated at $3 million, which includes renovation of the band and vocal spaces, and additional storage.

An activities addition at the high school is estimated at $20 million includes a competition gym, walking track and tennis courts.

Will taxes increase?

The district will pay for this project with a combination of general obligation and Secure an Advanced Vision for Education funds.

“Everyone’s main concern is probably my taxes,” said Superintendent Deron Stender. “This is a levy that will be maintained. The goal is to not have increases.”

The district currently has two bonds, with final payment would be in early 2023. The plan is structured to maintain the current Creston resident school tax levy at $16.55. Prescott residents may see an increase of $2.40 from $14.15 in their school tax levy. This increase is a result of Prescott being fully incorporated into the Creston Community District and included any new debt. With this plan, Crestonians will not see an increase, nor decrease, in the school tax levy.

The district plans to use S.A.V.E. funds for secondary projects – a high school science room, media center, parking and HVAC improvements, and concrete pathways. S.A.V.E. is the local option sales and services tax for school infrastructure.

For those who think taxes will go down if the debt services goes down, Stender said, theoretically, that’s true.

“In all practicality, the district will probably maintain that same levy because we’ll increase our other pockets to make them healthy and build up those so that we have revenues to be able to sustain and stay fiscally sound. The other reality is, if it doesn’t pass now, we’ll probably come back again in November, do the modification, but the board has been pretty committed, staying with the plan without increasing it.

Stender said a number of things could affect the project if it is not approved by the voters in March.

“Interest rates could go up by then and it could cost the district more, or we get less,” he said. “But the committee that’s been working on this, the two different committees, have said, ‘Do it right. Don’t come back and scale things down if this is what’s needed.’”

Election

The special election will March 1 at seven polling places, to be determined by the county auditors.

“We have three counties that basically incumber the Creston Community School District and we want to make sure our stake holders and partners have access to it from within what ever county they live in,” said Stender.

The design process will begin as soon as a bond is passed and continue through November. The first projects could then go out for bid with the district ready to break ground in the spring of 2023. With this timeline, the project is expected to be completion in August 2024.

The capital project planning document, ESSER fund expenditures as well as other documents that show the district’s financial picture can be found on the district’s website www.crestonschools.org.




SARAH  SCULL

SARAH SCULL

Sarah Scull is native of San Diego, California, now living in Creston, Iowa. She joined Creston News Advertiser's editorial staff in September 2012, where she has been the recipient of three 2020 Iowa Newspaper Association awards. She now serves as associate editor, writing for Creston News Advertiser, Creston Living and Southwest Iowa AgMag.