Special Election 2023: North Tama bond referendum narrowly fails by six votes

York precinct chair Sue Vesely, left, assists a voter at the Elberon Community Center during Tuesday’s special election, while poll worker Bruce Swyter (second from left) does the same nearby. Vesely has been a poll worker for 25 years after first starting as a substitute at the behest of her aunt who worked in the Auditor’s Office. Swyter credits his mother for getting him started over 30 years ago as a poll worker in Linn Co. Vesely and Swyter along with Judy Upah (not pictured) assisted 29 voters in Elberon on Tuesday. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

North Tama’s $14.25 million bond referendum fell just short of the 60% supermajority necessary during the special election held on Tuesday – six more votes and the first public measure would have passed.

“The North Tama Board of Education and administration would like to thank our community for their thoughtful consideration of the bond issue questions on the ballot,” Superintendent David Hill said in a statement to the Telegraph which was later posted on Facebook. “While we are pleased that a vast majority of voters were in favor of both ballot measures, both measures fell slightly short of the 60% supermajority needed for approval. We do appreciate the input and feedback of everyone involved.”

The school district had two public measures up for a vote Tuesday – the first would have allowed 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-phased project), while the second would allow the district to levy at a higher rate in order to do so.

Both measures fell just shy of receiving 60%.

The first measure received 411 yes votes and 284 no votes, which equates to 59% in favor. Six more votes and the supermajority threshold would have been met.

Voting privacy screens set up in the Elberon Community Building during the special election on Tuesday, March 7. The York Township precinct which includes Elberon turned out nine voters total for the North Tama bond issue among the 29 who voted there. Some voters in York were also eligible to vote in the Benton Community special election. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

The second measure received 397 yes votes and 298 no votes, which equates to 57% in favor.

With both measures falling so close to passage, a recount is a possibility.

“The school can petition to ask for a recount,” Karen Rohrs, Tama Co. Election Administrator, told the Telegraph following the vote. “They would need 10 signatures from eligible voters. I doubt the results would change since it is just a yes or no vote and we have all of our absentees in and accounted for but we would for sure do a recount if they requested it.”

When asked about the likelihood of the district requesting a recount, Hill told the Telegraph the district would most likely not elect to do so.

While more than 2,000 people are registered to vote in the North Tama County Community School District boundaries, a little more than a third of those individuals cast a ballot in the 2023 special election.

Elberon poll workers including (l-r) Judy Upah, precinct chair Sue Vesely, and Bruce Swyter smile during a lull in activity at the York Township polling site Tuesday afternoon. During the 13 hours polls were open on Tuesday, the trio assisted 29 individuals, more than four times the number that voted in Elberon during the last special election. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

If the bond issue had passed, funding generated by the general obligation bonds combined with SAVE (sales tax) proceeds would have allowed for an 18,000 square foot expansion at the high school to the east of the current building and a 5,600 square foot renovation within the current building including security upgrades, athletic area reconfiguration, a weight room expansion, paving of the existing back parking lot, and selective maintenance of other areas.

As phase 1 of a larger project, it also would have cleared the way for the demolition of the current high school building built in 1917, and its subsequent replacement.

The district spent close to two years working toward Tuesday’s referendum, conducting a comprehensive study of all buildings and facilities in order to produce a long range master plan. The school board hired Align Architecture and Planning, PLC based in Waterloo, and its partners Modus Engineering and Plunkett Raysich Architects, LLP based in Wisconsin to analyze the district’s needs.

From that study, it was determined the district’s aging facilities require close to $13 million in general maintenance and ADA compliance alone – “bandaid” fixes – with the boiler being a top concern.

During the school board’s August 2021 meeting, Andrew Bell with Align Architecture told the board the long range plan was “the alternative to the bandaid fixes that can continue to keep the doors open and the lights on.”

“We know that this result is not a reflection of the support the North Tama community has for its local schools,” Hill continued in his statement Tuesday night. “We remain grateful for the great questions asked and the outstanding feedback provided by many members of the community throughout the last two years.”

“Unfortunately, we know our school’s facility needs will not go away. We will immediately begin work to evaluate and find an alternative solution to these needs, one that our community can support. We will continue to seek the community’s engagement as we move ahead.”

The next meeting of the North Tama Board of Education is set for Monday, March 20, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the North Tama Junior High Commons.

North Tama School Special Election Unofficial Results

Public Measure TY ($14.25 mil bond)

-Absentee YES 54 NO 33

-Buckingham/Perry YES 303 NO 181

-Geneseo/Clark YES 7 NO 0

-Carroll/Oneida YES 45 NO 63

-York YES 2 NO 7



Public Measure TZ (levy at a higher rate)

-Absentee YES 54 NO 33

-Buckingham/Perry YES 289 NO 196

-Geneseo/Clark YES 7 NO 0

-Carroll/Oneida YES 44 NO 63

-York YES 3 NO 6