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A Balanced Solution for Storm Lake Schools and Community

Residents of the Storm Lake Community School District will vote in a special school bond election on Tuesday, September 10, 2019. The question asks voters to approve $14.98 million for the first of a three-phase project to address our schools' space and capacity needs.

 

After last December's vote for an Early Elementary School fell just short of the 60 percent support necessary for approval, the Storm Lake Board of Education went back to the drawing board. Over the past several months, we’ve examined numerous options to find a solution to our schools’ space and capacity needs. We’ve carefully considered the feedback of community members, who have come to us with a wide variety of ideas and perspectives. 

 

We listened. After engaging in this process, we are now presenting a solution that will address the district’s needs and result in the smallest immediate tax increase of any plan that came before the board. If approved, the bond would have an estimated property tax impact of $1.63 on every $1,000 of assessed property value. When you factor in the state rollback and the Homestead Credit, this would lead to an increase of $85 per year (or less than a quarter a day) on a home worth $100,000.

 

 

We propose creating a new Early Elementary School on 16 acres of district-owned land, to be built in three phases:

 

 

We also heard from you about the shape of the previously proposed building and have modified the design approach this time around. 

 

The bond question will appear on the ballot Tuesday, September 10. There will be one voting precinct open. All voters may cast their ballots at the Buena Vista County Courthouse, located at 215 E. 5th Street in Storm Lake. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

 

Thank you for your ongoing support and engagement as we all work together to plan for the future of Storm Lake schools. 

 

Storm Lake Board of Education

Peter Steinfeld, President
Dave Skibsted, Vice President
Erika Dierking
Emilia Marroquin
Melea Raveling


Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the September 10 bond, the school district’s space and capacity needs and the solution the Board of Education has presented in the form of a bond issue.

 

What are the Storm Lake Community School District’s needs?

Storm Lake is a growing community, and increasing enrollment has placed considerable pressure on our schools. This is a good problem to have, but has also led to pressing capacity issues we must address now. 

 

For example, our middle and elementary schools are each about 150 students over capacity. The district has been thinking outside the box by adding a gym to free up classroom space, but the remaining options available with our current facilities are dwindling. 

 

While Storm Lake teachers and staff have been doing everything they can to keep serving our students, they are simply running out of room. Each school year, the problem gets a little more severe. 

 

Why does the district have these needs?

The capacity needs in Storm Lake schools stem from the considerable growth of our community in recent years. Unlike many rural Iowa communities, Storm Lake has experienced a growing population. This has led to rapidly increasing enrollment in our schools, which has placed significant pressure on our current facilities and spaces.

 

While the district and board have worked hard to make the most of taxpayers’ investments in our schools, the board believes the time has come to address SLCSD's capacity needs and help ensure its legacy continues well into the future.

 

How has the board decided to address the district’s needs?

Some community members have expressed a valid concern: What happens if enrollment stops growing in the near future? While this is unlikely, we wanted to prepare for all scenarios. That’s why our proposed solution centers on a three-phase project to build a new Storm Lake Early Elementary School on district-owned land. 

 

Below is what each of the phases would cover:

 

  • Phase I: A new facility for kindergarten classrooms and the addition of a middle school gym, enabling the district to convert a multipurpose room into two classrooms.
  • Phase II: New spaces for preschool classrooms.
  • Phase III: New spaces for first-grade classrooms. 

 

In September, community members will vote on the first phase only. The $14.98 million bond would provide space for kindergarten students. In addition, a middle school gym will be added, but that cost will be covered by $6 million available through SAVE, the state's one-cent sales tax. Finally, the district will use its cash on hand to reach the total project cost of $23 million. 

 

This approach would allow the district to be nimble as time goes on. For example, if enrollment projections change over the next few years, we can adjust our approach. We will also have extra land, making future expansion possible as needed.

 

Which projects would be covered if the September 10 bond is approved by voters?

The first phase would start with a new facility for kindergarten classrooms at a new Early Elementary School. It would also include the addition of a gym to Storm Lake Middle School, enabling the district to convert a multipurpose room into two classrooms. More instructional space will be needed as larger elementary classes move to the middle school.

 

The September 10 bond would cover this first phase only. Any future phases would need to be funded through other means. Please note that the district would move forward on the middle school gym portion of the project, using other means, even if the bond does not pass.  

 

How would the bond affect property taxes?

If approved, the bond would result in a net increase of $1.63 per $1,000 of assessed property value for residents of the Storm Lake Community School District. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $85 per year. This takes into account the state rollback and homestead credit, as outlined in the chart below:

 


 

If approved, how much money would the bond issue provide the district?

The bond will ask community members to approve $14.98 in general obligation bonds that would go toward funding a new facility for kindergarten classrooms at a new Early Elementary School.

 

How is this different from the bond proposed in December 2018?

After last December's vote for an Early Elementary School fell just short of the 60 percent support necessary for approval, the Storm Lake Board of Education went back to the drawing board. Over the past several months, we’ve examined numerous options to find a solution to our schools’ space and capacity needs. We’ve carefully considered the feedback of community members, who have come to us with a variety of ideas and perspectives. 

 

After engaging in this process, we are now presenting a solution that will address the district’s needs and result in the smallest immediate tax increase of any plan that came before the board. 

 

We now propose creating a new Early Elementary School on 16 acres of district-owned land, to be built in three phases. It would start with a new facility for kindergarten classrooms in the first phase, followed by a second phase focused on preschool space. The third phase would provide more space for first-grade classes. Plans also call for adding a gym to Storm Lake Middle School, enabling the district to convert a multipurpose room into two classrooms.

 

Last time around, the proposed building featured a lot of non-90 degree angles. Is that still the case?

The board received some feedback from community members about the shape of the previously proposed building. We have modified the design approach this time around. Below are renderings of the updated project plan: 


 

Do we have to decide on all three phases now?

No, the September 10 bond vote is for the first phase only. Voters will be asked to approve $14.98 million in additional funding for a new facility for kindergarten classrooms at a new Early Elementary School.

 

This approach would allow the district to be nimble as time goes on. For example, if enrollment projections change over the next few years, we can adjust our approach. We will also have extra land, making future expansion possible as needed.

 

How will SAVE, the state's one-cent sales tax, affect the project?

About $6 million in project costs will be covered by Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE), the state's one-cent sales tax program allocated specifically for school infrastructure projects. This would cover the proposed middle school gym, which would free up two classrooms to meet space needs. The recent renewal of SAVE at the state level will reduce the project costs for Phase I. 

 

Which grade levels would be served in the proposed Early Elementary School?

If all three phases are ultimately built at the Early Elementary School site, the school would serve students in preschool through first grade. However, the first phase—which is the focus of the September 10 bond— would provide only a new facility for kindergarten classrooms. 

 

Future planned phases would include new spaces for preschool and first-grade classrooms. It’s worth noting that the district would only move forward with those phases if the need for them continues in the future. 

 

Is Open Enrollment a contributing factor to the district’s capacity issues?

The state of Iowa's Open Enrollment law allows students to attend schools outside of their home districts. In the 2017-18 school year, SLCSD welcomed 113 open enrolled students to our schools, while 47 students who live in our district chose to open enroll in non-SLCSD public schools.

 

Although open enrollment provides us with considerable benefits, it is not a cause of nor a solution to our capacity challenges.

 

Why does the board think we need to move forward now?

The district has invested conservatively and has reached a point at which creating more space is necessary. The estimated cost of Phase I alone would rise by $3.4 million if the project was delayed for five years. 

 

Why did the district choose the site in question as the focus of its attention?

The school district began the site selection process by taking a comprehensive look at more than 10 sites in Storm Lake. It prioritized several considerations, including proximity to existing facilities, future city development, site utilities, topography, size and cost.

 

Throughout this vetting process, a facilities committee reviewed potential sites and provided feedback to help in the decision. Once the options were narrowed to three, each site was further evaluated using additional criteria. The district was able to determine that all three sites would be feasible options.

 

At that point, the district worked with its realtor to begin discussions with property owners. The final site was selected based on these conversations.

 

The site is located near the intersection of 90th Avenue and W. Milwaukee Avenue, just north of the Hope Evangelical Free Church. The property would be accessed from 90th Avenue. This site offers several key advantages for the school district, including:

  • Adequate size for the building, site circulation and outdoor play areas

  • Proximity to existing elementary and middle school, as parents and buses would not be required to drive across town to drop off siblings

  • Ability to have three site access points to separate car and bus traffic and provide a safe drop-off and pick-up sequence

  • Flat site for construction, with drainage to the east

  • Preferred site by the facilities committee

 

Would the bond fund raises for administrators and staff?

No, the district would not provide raises to administrators, teachers or support staff through the bond. Doing so would violate Iowa state law. 

 

When will the community vote on this?

The bond question will appear on a special election ballot Tuesday, September 10, 2019. All registered voters who live within SLCSD boundaries may cast their ballot. District residents may also vote absentee.

 

Where do we vote September 10?

There will be one voting precinct open on Tuesday, September 10. All voters may cast their ballots at the Buena Vista County Courthouse, located at 215 E. 5th Street in Storm Lake. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

 

Do you have a question not addressed here? We invite you to submit your question.