Four Tama Co. school districts set to hold special elections March 7
North Tama, Benton Community, GMG, and Hawkeye CC gear up to vote
March 7 will be a busy day for Tama County Elections Administrator Karen Rohrs as four schools with boundaries in the county hold special elections including North Tama, Benton Community, GMG, and Hawkeye Community College.
Benton Community includes roughly six sections of the northeast quadrant of York Township in Tama County including Elberon, while Hawkeye’s Merged Area covers 10 counties including Tama and Grundy.
“This is the most schools I have had hold a special election at once,” Rohrs told the Telegraph. Tama County is the control county for just the North Tama election.
While the North Tama, Benton Community, and Hawkeye Community College elections require a supermajority of 60% to pass, the GMG special election requires just a 50% + 1 majority to pass.
GMG also has a contested election for a director at large seat on the GMG Board of Education on the ballot.
Polls for the special election will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7. Absentee voting began on Wednesday, February 15, and lasts until Monday, March 6. Absentee ballots can be cast at county auditors’ offices.
As part of the North Tama special election only, satellite voting will take place on Friday, Feb. 24 in the Traer City Hall conference room from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for anyone residing in the North Tama County Community School District.
North Tama special election
North Tama will put two public measures up for a vote on March 7.
The first measure, Public Measure TY, would allow the district to issue up to $14.25 million in general obligation bonds in order to build, furnish, and equip a new addition at the high school – phase 1 of a planned four-phase facilities upgrade.
The G.O. bonds would be used together with sales tax bond proceeds.
The second measure, Public Measure TZ, would allow the district to levy at a higher rate – more than $2.70 per $1,000 of the assessed value of taxable property in the school district but not exceeding $4.05 per $1,000.
If the second measure receives a supermajority and passes but the first measure does not, the district cannot move forward with phase 1 of the planned high school addition and critical upgrades.
“An approved bond issue on March 7 would allow the district to effectively address North Tama’s most pressing facility needs,” North Tama Superintendent David Hill told the Telegraph. “The improvements would protect the investment our community has made in our schools and ensure our students continue to have access to a high-quality educational experience.”
Phase 1 includes an 18,000 sq. ft. high school addition built to the east of the current building and an approximately 5,600 sq. ft. renovation of the current building. Renovations include security upgrades, athletic area reconfiguration to allow for better accessibility, weight room expansion, paving of the existing back parking lot, and selective maintenance of other areas.
The phase 1 high school addition would allow for the 1917 structure – currently housing high school classrooms – to be demolished and replaced in a subsequent phase 2. A one-story building would be erected in its place with art, library, commons, kitchen, receiving, storage, admin, and pupil services spaces.
“The proposed plan is based heavily on the input of our community and the comprehensive study of all district buildings and facilities, conducted in 2021,” Supt. Hill further stated. “The school board took the study results as well as taxpayer feedback shared in numerous community meetings along with community survey results to create a plan that balances the needs of our students with those of our property taxpayers.”
“The Board of Education believes that the time has come to address these needs and ensure our students continue to have access to the resources, opportunities, and facilities they need to thrive.”
Benton Community special election
Benton Community also has two public measures on the ballot similar to North Tama – the first for general obligation bonds and the second to levy at a higher rate.
The first measure, Public Measure BE, would allow the district to issue up to $48.5 million in general obligation bonds in order to build, furnish, and equip a new elementary school in Van Horne including acquiring land to do so; to build, furnish, and equip an addition to Atkins Elementary School; to implement HVAC and safety improvements at the Middle/High School building in Van Horne; and to remodel, improve, furnish, and equip existing spaces at the Middle/High School building.
The second measure, Public Measure BF, would allow the district to levy at a higher rate – more than $2.70 per $1,000 of the assessed value of taxable property in the school district but not exceeding $4.05 per $1,000.
According to handouts provided by the Benton Community district, the projected cost for the new PK-6th building in Van Horne is $35.5 million which does not include land acquisition; the projected cost for the Atkins Elementary addition and renovation is $5 million with the primary scope being a new cafeteria; the projected cost for the MS/HS HVAC replacement is $13.75 million; and the projected cost for the MS/HS office renovation is $2.5 million.
The district will combine the $48.5 million in G.O. bonds with $1.7 million in district funds and $10 million in sales tax bonds to fund the project.
The district has not proposed a bond referendum “to improve and modernize” facilities in more than 43 years, according to a district handout.
A new PK-6th building in Van Horne will “likely reduce transportation costs allowing more district revenue to be spent on future projects and education,” the handout further states.
The Benton Community district encompasses eight communities including Atkins, Blairstown,
Elberon, Keystone, Newhall, Norway, Van Horne, and Watkins, and has four buildings: Atkins Elementary (PK-3rd), Keystone Elementary (PK-3rd), Norway Intermediate (4th-6th), and Benton Middle/High School in Van Horne.
Part of the proposed project – but not part of the special election ballot itself – includes closing the Keystone and Norway buildings once the new elementary school in Van Horne is built.
Elberon is located roughly seven miles from Keystone, and roughly 13 miles from Van Horne.
GMG special election
GMG will put two public measures up for a vote on March 7 and an at large school board director’s seat.
The first measure, Proposition OT, would allow the district to adopt a new Revenue Purpose Statement that specifies how the district can use revenues from the SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) Fund, once known as the statewide school infrastructure sales and services tax.
GMG’s new Revenue Purpose Statement specifies SAVE funds could be used for a variety of purposes including but not limited to acquiring or installing information technology infrastructure and school safety and security; building and furnishing a new school building or buildings, or an addition; demolition work; property tax relief and more.
The second measure, Proposition OU, is for the renewal of the Voter-approved Physical Plant and Equipment Property (VPPEL) tax not to exceed $1.34 per $1,000 of the assessed value of taxable property in the school district, for a period of 10 years.
PPEL/VPPEL funds can be used for a variety of purposes mostly pertaining to school building improvements, repairs, maintenance, tech upgrades, purchasing school buses, and/or new construction, but may not be used for employee salaries or travel, supplies, printing costs or media services.
Iowa school districts are allowed to levy 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property tax valuation toward the PPEL levy fund. The first 33 cents does not require a public vote.
Districts also have the option to levy for up to an additional $1.34 per $1,000 of assessed property tax valuation toward the PPEL levy fund. This additional amount does require a public vote.
GMG also has a director at large seat for the GMG Board of Education on the ballot to fill a vacancy that arose following the resignation of former board member Stacey Duden who resigned last fall to serve as the board’s 2022-2023 secretary/treasurer.
Two candidates are running for the seat including Kristine Kienzle and Taylor Woehlk, both of rural Toledo.
Woehlk was appointed to the seat on Nov. 29 of last year.
Next week’s edition of the Sun Courier will include candidate Q & As.
Hawkeye Community College special election
Hawkeye Community College has one public measure up for vote on March 7.
Public Measure BK would allow the district to issue up to $35 million in general obligation bonds in order to provide funds to defray the cost of improving its Main Campus in Waterloo, and/or to construct, acquire, improve, expand, remodel, furnish and equip new or existing facilities within the merged 10-county area.
Since an existing levy is ending, this is a bond renewal at the existing tax rate – property tax rates will not change if the measure is passed.
According to Mary Pat Moore, Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Hawkeye’s two-phased plan includes the creation of a Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Center by renovating and expanding an existing building, and the addition of a STEM Learning Center to connect middle and high school students to “high-demand career pathways and to college.”
This past fall, a combined 180 high school students from the districts of North Tama, Union, and Gladbrook-Reinbeck earned almost 1,200 college credits from Hawkeye, Moore said – “saving families more than $250,000 in future college tuition.”
In the last 10 years, Hawkeye awarded degrees to 767 students from these three school districts combined.