Kids Place Removed From School District Building Plan

Kids Place and the Glenwood Community School District Central Office are housed in this building on the campus of the Glenwood Resource Center.

After a public hearing and a special meeting that drew more than 50 Glenwood residents, the Glenwood Board of Education plans to move forward on a $5 million revenue bond plan to construct a new building to address its infrastructure needs.

The March 25 meeting, however, was not without drama – and a change in direction.

The 30-minute public hearing prior to the special meeting included nearly a dozen district residents sharing their feelings on everything from a county auditor mailing that showed taxes going up to the failed $40 million general obligation bond vote last fall and the recent Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) election. Others cited the rising tax burden on residents, concerns about high property taxes and an increase in the school budget.

Some of the attendees, who had three minutes to share their thoughts, did express support for the board and the district as it attempts to navigate its transition off the Glenwood Resource Center campus in 2025.

During the special meeting, the board was presented with an initial resolution to set a date to pursue a $5 million School Infrastructure Sales, Serves and Use Tax Revenue Bond. The language of that resolution called for funds to be used to build a pre-manufactured building on a piece of land the district already owns north of the high school. That building would theoretically house Kids Place daycare, the THRIVE alternative high school, a planned innovation center and the district’s administrative offices.

After 20 minutes of board discussion with the efficacy of keeping Kids Place as part of the resolution at the center of those discussions, the board voted that measure down by a 4-1 vote. Board member John Zak was the lone hold out.

As part of that discussion, the board voted to return with a new resolution that would remove Kids Place from the revenue bond language while keeping the size of the proposed building and the financial ask to pay for it at $5 million. A public hearing on the bond was set for April 15. A revenue bond does not require public approval.

Zak was once again the only nay in the 4-1 vote for the revised resolution.

Prior to the vote on the revenue bond language, Zak said “I am in favor a new building but I will not vote for taking Kids Place out.”   

The proposed $5 to $7 million, 35,000 to 40,000 square foot building would be a steel structure on a concrete slab. Construction is expected to take 14 to 16 months with an August 2025 opening being targeted. With Kids Place no longer in the plan, the building will remain the same size with the empty space being used for storage and future district programming.

The estimated cost to build out that portion of the new building for Kid Place use is $750,000, according to Superintendent Dr. Devin Embray.

Kids Place has been a partner of the Glenwood School District for 40 years. The self-sustaining facility is funded by daycare fees and has leased space from the district on the GRC campus for more than a decade.

Embray stopped short of saying the decision to not include Kids Place in its plans will effectively shutter the program once its current lease on the GRC campus is up next year but did say if the daycare were to continue it would have to be privately funded.

The daycare currently has 74 children enrolled. Another 70 children were on the waiting list as of April 1.

Following last week’s meeting, board president Matt Portrey said by email the board supports Kids Place and sees it as a valuable asset to the community but the public support for the daycare and its continued partnership with the district just wasn’t there.

“The community support wasn’t readily apparent,” Portrey said. “Counting the number of ‘yes’ votes on two separate occasions, including only the third RPS vote to fail in Iowa. The district has several needs to be addressed, so we reluctantly felt we had to move forward.”

Embray said he feels like the “goalposts have shifted” around the public debate over the bonds, the RPS and Kids Place.

The initial opposition, he said, was the daycare being part of a $39 million GO bond for renovations at Northeast Elementary and a reluctance to see property taxes used for a child care facility. When the district then proposed extending the Revenue Purpose Statement to secure a revenue bond from sales taxes monies, that proposition too was voted down.

“That’s sales tax and not property tax. It’s a choice tax. So what’ the issue? So Kids Place is used again to get a no vote out,” he said.

Embray went on to say he felt the district is being very “frugal” with taxpayer money and that he’s perplexed by the negativity of the public discourse.

“I think it might have something to do with assessed (property) valuations and we have nothing to do with that. That’s the assessors office. Eighty-five percent of our budget is dictated to us by the state and a lot of our property tax rates are set so anything we monitor or move are based on our management fund and our cash reserve levy. Those are really the only two things we impact.”

Later in the meeting, the board went on to pass a resolution to pay off the general obligation bond on the high school originally scheduled to be paid off May 1, 2027. With this new resolution the district will have no general obligation bond debt as of May 1, 2025 unless of course, a new GO bond is passed next November for the remodeling of Northeast Elementary and other district improvements.

The early payoff, which will be paid out of the general fund, will save the district more than $80,000, according to Tim Reinert, the district’s Chief Financial Officer.

The high school GO bond was issued in 2006.  It was refinanced in 2012 and again in 2015 and 2020 as interest rates decreased.  Along with the refinancing and the $80,850 saved by the early payoff next May, a total of $1,803,940 of interest payments has been saved for taxpayers.  Additionally, in 2014 a revenue bond for the high school auxiliary gym was issued.  In 2020, the district also refinanced its revenue bond for the high school auxiliary gym saving an additional $139,377.

n total, the refinancing will save taxpayers $1,943,317 of interest payments.

“Previous commitments were made to reduce costs to our taxpayers,” said board president Portrey of the debt reductions. “We wanted to honor those commitments.”

The Opinion-Tribune

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