$10 million bond vote Tuesday
Residents in the Fairfield Community School District can vote Tuesday to decide if the school district can issue $10 million in general obligation bonds to update Fairfield High School.
Proposition A, as it will be listed on the ballot, is the only issue for voters to decide in this special election. It is one question, with a yes or no choice.
The school board, administrators and staff, community members and students have worked more than two years to prepare a proposal that addresses major issues with the 1939 high school building and pass a 60 percent majority vote.
“I hope people turn out to vote,” said Superintendent Art Sathoff. “The board has worked extremely hard throughout the past few years listening to staff, students and the community to prioritize needs.
“This is a no-frills plan that addresses the biggest issues affecting educational needs. Interest rates are at an historical low — I hope we don’t miss this opportunity,” said Sathoff.
A typical obstacle in borrowing money is the cost to taxpayers. In January, after consulting with the district’s bond advisor Piper Jaffray & Co. from Des Moines, Sathoff said that hurdle would be eliminated.
A “yes” vote on the proposal will lower the school district’s levy rate by 57-cents per $1,000 property evaluation.
“It should be possible to approve the high school project without increasing the school district’s total tax levy,” he said at a Jan. 8 school board meeting.
“Because of good stewardship of the budget and steps the district has taken to improve the district’s cash reserve and spending authority, along with the completion of a levy for a past early retirement policy, the district feels it is in an excellent position to decrease the levy rate,” Sathoff wrote in a talking-points handout about the proposed high school project.
Today, Sathoff confirmed the district would lower its levy rate even while borrowing the money for this project.
The district estimates the total cost of the project at $11,107,800, so the district will need to contribute the difference.
Matt Gillaspie, senior vice president at Piper Jaffray & Co., recommended, and Sathoff and district business manager Kim Sheets agreed, the district can use its sales tax revenue and Physical Plant Equipment Levy to make up the $1.3 million.
Gillaspie said borrowing $10 million in bonds provides the district an opportunity to secure the lowest interest rates.
“For property tax payers in the Fairfield school district, the borrowing will not raise school property taxes,” said Gillaspie.
“If anyone has questions, I encourage them to contact me at the office or on my cell phone,” Sathoff said this morning.
If voters approve borrowing the money, renovations and an addition will be constructed at FHS.
The school district’s website, www.fairfieldsfuture.org has information about the project and initial designs available for viewing.
According to the website, the final design by StruXture Architects in conjunction with Carl A. Nelson & Co., construction manager, are anticipated to be completed in December. The plan is for bids to be let in January and construction would begin in spring/summer 2014 and completed by fall 2015.
Classes will continue at the high school through construction and renovations, but as much work as possible would be done during the two summers. Administration is planning to minimize disruptions as much as possible.
Priorities identified by the school board with student and staff input are:
• HVAC — heating, ventilation and air conditioning — and air quality and electrical infrastructure improvements.
• Accessibility — adding an elevator, eliminating some levels, making all common areas American with Disabilities Act accessible.
• Updated classroom space — create larger science labs, address smaller classrooms and areas without natural light.
• Building security and traffic flow — create a new, secure central entrance and centralized student services.
• Enlarging practice area for band and chorus; improving instrument storage and stage access.
• New locker rooms and wrestling area on main floor and using space adjacent to gymnasium.
• Storage — lower-level former locker room areas can be utilized.
The high school’s unique characteristics, such as Trojan Stadium and its tunnel entrance, as well as the art deco façade on the south face, will remain as they are.