At its Monday meeting, the South Tama County Board of Education unanimously approved a plan to renovate the property of the Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH) in Toledo to meet the needs for space and district college facilities.
The plan calls for renovating the property to provide a 21st century learning environment, with an addition to the north of the main IJH building.
The board also set a project budget of $ 26.8 million, including $ 15 million in general obligation bonds, $ 9.8 million in sales tax bonds and $ 2 million in sales tax bonds. sales tax cash. Forty-four percent of the total project budget comes from sales tax (not property taxes).
If the referendum were to take place on March 1, voters would only be called upon to vote on the $ 15 million general bond portion of the project. The bonds would be loaned with a 20-year term and would include debt refinancing for the 2017 high school addition.
The $ 26.8 million budget for the IJH project option comes after a third-party assessment of the mechanical systems at the IJH facility revealed a number of concerns that had not been addressed in the Estes Construction’s initial estimate of $ 25 million that was issued during community engagement sessions in November.
The evaluation of the IJH facilities, completed in early December by the engineering company IMEG Corp. based in Des Moines, indicated the need to replace rooftop heating and cooling units, ground source heat pumps, and the building automation system that controls lights and HVAC. Another concern raised in December was the condition of the building’s flat roof.
Further inspection of the roof also presented a potential need for repair and partial replacement in different areas, a cost also not factored into the initial estimate.
Monday’s vote follows the work of a community-led facilities working group. Over the course of several months, the task force examined the middle school’s facility needs and explored potential solutions. The current building is 106 years old and is considered one of the oldest, if not the oldest, colleges in the state. The lifespan of a typical college is 70 years.
In the coming days, a petition will be released asking voters to call a special school election on March 1 to vote on the college bond referendum. District officials said petitions may not be available until early next week given the New Years holiday. That leaves the district less than two weeks to collect the 332 signatures required to call a special election.
Members of the Facilities Working Group are expected to begin circulating petitions next week. Voters wishing to sign a petition can also stop by the STC central office during working hours to sign one afterwards.
If enough signatures are collected, a bond issue will appear on the ballot on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. For the bond issue to be accepted, it must receive 60% qualified majority approval.
“As a board of directors, we are delighted to be able to take this next step in this community-driven process to thoroughly examine and find a solid solution to our pressing middle school facilities needs,” said Mandy Lekin, Chairman of the Board. âThanks to the contributions of our community members and the work of our Community Task Force, we are confident that this plan represents a solution that will meet the needs of our students and local taxpayers. “
Ahead of the March 1 vote, the district plans to hold several public information sessions for the community to ask questions and take a closer look at the proposed plan. The dates for the public sessions have not yet been announced.
The working group considered several options and recommended renovating the IJH facilities after evaluating factors including cost, logistics, space, and community feedback. Two recent surveys of community members showed they preferred using the IJH property when asked about potential options.
If voters approve a bond issue, the property tax rate would drop from $ 2.70 to $ 2.06 per $ 1,000 of taxable assessment. For the owner of a home valued at $ 100,000, this represents an annual reduction of $ 31.54 ($ 2.63 per month). School taxes would decrease by $ 339.41 per year ($ 28.28 per month) on the average value of 400 acres of farmland. These decreases are possible even with an approved bond vote, because the district will have paid off the debt associated with the elementary school.
If voters don’t approve a bond issue, property taxes would drop by $ 139 per year ($ 11.59 per month) for the owner of a home valued at $ 100,000. Taxes would drop by $ 1,356 per year ($ 113 per month) on the average value of 400 acres of farmland. However, the college’s facility requirements would remain.
The district’s tentative timeline if the bond issuance was approved in March would be to begin the bidding process in late 2022 or early 2023 with the hope of innovating in spring 2023.
A website has been developed with additional information regarding the school district process through the Middle School Facility Project at www.southtamabond.org.
Toledo supports the IJH plan
Following the December 13 school board meeting, another lingering question was how the state of Iowa, which owns the vacant 27-acre IJH property, would resolve issues such as the demolition of buildings in the chalet, the treatment of asbestos and radon and the closing of the tunnels located under the campus.
At the meeting, Tama County Economic Development Director Katherine Ollendieck said that an informal agreement had been negotiated between the city of Toledo and the State Department of Administrative Services (the state agency that manages the property). The city would initially take possession of the IJH campus and be used as an intermediary for the procurement of demolition and remediation works, as it would be more eligible to apply for state-funded aid if costs exceed expectations.
Once the demolition and remediation work is complete, the property would then be transferred to the school district to begin renovation and construction.
Earlier this year, city and school officials said discussions with Iowa DAS director Adam Steen resulted in a verbal pledge of $ 750,000 from the Demolition Fund. vacant Iowa Economic Development Authority buildings to dedicate to the demolition of IJH cottages.
At the December 13 meeting, Ollendieck said she was confident the final demolition and abatement costs would exceed the $ 750,000 mark, but that if the city was the entity carrying out the work, the state could make sufficient additional funds available to cover the difference.
It is still unclear where the additional funding would come from. The city also received only verbal discussions and agreements from the state binding them to the proposed plan.
On the same evening the school board met to approve the plan and budget for the IJH project, Toledo City Council met to vote a resolution supporting the collaboration between South Tama and the city regarding the IJH campus as the proposed site of the new middle school. Council voted 3-1 in favor of the project and will work over the coming month to apply for the Demolition Fund grant and begin the process for requesting an asbestos study.
Ollendieck was present at the meeting on December 27 and presented a proposed timetable for the stages between the city and the school. If the bond issue passes in March, the proposal shows that the city will issue requests for proposals for the demolition work and have ownership transferred from the state to the city.
The asbestos decontamination contract would then be awarded in April with a target completion date in June. The award of the demolition contract would follow in June, which could lead to the completion of the demolition by October 2022.