School District Puts Bond Issue On November Ballot

Renovations and expansion at Northeast Elementary School would be funded with passage of a $39.9 million bond issue being brought before Glenwood Community School District voters in November.

The Glenwood Community School District will put a $39.9 million bond issue for facilities improvements to the voters on Nov. 7.

In a unanimous vote at its regular monthly meeting last Monday, the Glenwood Board of Education approved the 411 signatures required to place the measure on the ballot as well as the specific language of the nearly $40 million proposition.

The proposition will ask voters to approve funds to “renovate, remodel, repair, improve, furnish and equip Northeast Elementary building and improve the site; construct, furnish and equip an addition to Northeast Elementary building; renovate, remodel, and improve existing space at West Elementary buildings; and implement HVAC and lighting improvements at the middle school building.”

The bond will require a 60 percent majority to pass.

The largest portion of the bond fund will be $30 million earmarked for the renovation and expansion at Northeast Elementary School. Built originally in the 1970s, the pre-kindergarten through second grade school has had several renovations throughout the decades. But in recent years, the school’s high enrollment, which is the highest in the district, and antiquated footprint, has made it a long-discussed facilities target for the district.

The renovations to Northeast will include a new secure entrance vestibule, a new wing that would house the district’s daycare, Kids Place, additional classrooms and a new gymnasium. In all, 48,000 square feet of space will be added.

The remainder of the funds from the bond will go toward renovations at the middle school and the district’s central office on the campus of the Glenwood Resource Center.

West Elementary is the district’s oldest building, but it underwent an extensive renovation in 1999, leaving Northeast in greatest need of updating, according to Glenwood Community School District Superintendent Dr. Devin Embray.

Embray said since the plan to pursue the bond was announced earlier this summer, he hasn’t heard “a lot of negativity,” about the project.

“We’re trying to gear up,” he said. “We only have 11 weeks before the vote, so we have to get ourselves organized and get the word out there.”

Embray added district parents are in the process of forming a committee to do just that and drum up support for the measure.

“Our younger parents, from what I understand are pretty excited about it.” he said.  “Our folks on fixed income, I would assume, would not be.”

If approved, the $39.9 million general obligation bond would be the largest the district has undertaken. As a comparison, the high school, completed in 2009, was built at a cost of just under $22 million.

The high school bond debt will come off the district’s books in 2025. According to Embray, the district is anticipating a zero sum increase on the levy with the new bond, meaning no net increase in taxes for district stakeholders.

“That is the plan, but I can’t be a magical wizard when it comes to tax rates,” he said. “We obviously know that it (the new bond) isn’t going to have a big impact because the high school bond will be coming off as this one is going on. The difference between the two is probably a dime.”

Embray also pointed to the district’s plan to pursue grants from both the Iowa West Foundation and the Lakin Foundation to help offset costs for the project.

“Both of those entities are very interested in the project of having our daycare go to Northeast as an addition, but they want a positive vote before considering us, in my estimation,” he said.

The grants would mean up to $3 million in funding that would allow the district to lower its bond amount.

“My guess is if that happens, our tax rate would go down,” Embray added.

If the bond issue is approved in November, construction could begin as early as the spring of 2024. Construction at Northeast is expected to last up two years, according to Embray, with work being staged around student classrooms.


The Opinion-Tribune

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