WHY ARE WE VOTING ON SEPT. 11?
WHAT DOES THE INITIAL PHASE INCLUDE?
WHAT DO FUTURE PHASES INCLUDE?
HOW WILL THIS IMPACT EDUCATION IN MONTICELLO?
HOW WILL WE PAY FOR IT?
WHAT WILL I BE VOTING ON Sept. 11?
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MY TAXES?
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
WHY ARE WE VOTING ON SEPT. 11?
A facility committee of Monticello residents convened by the Monticello Community School District and the Board of Education have identified a phased solution to meet immediate and long-range facility needs in the district that must be addressed for the health, safety, and education of all district students.
This long-term phased approach would be funded in part by a general obligation bond of $15 million, which must be approved by a 60% majority. Other funding sources include previously voter-approved SAVE and PPEL funds.
WHAT DOES THE INITIAL PHASE INCLUDE?
- New 5-8 building adjacent to high school
- Improvements to high school including: secured entrance; exterior and mechanical systems upgrades
- Relocation of softball diamonds
- Relocation of district administration offices
- Construction of a PK-4 facility as an addition to the 5-8 facility or at a new site
- Construction of a new transportation center
- Improvements to the roof, exterior of the existing high school
Construction of a new middle school connected to the existing high school will allow fifth through eighth grade students to move from the current middle school. This move will create opportunities for learning spaces and security features lacking in the existing 100-year-old middle school.
The new building will have a secure entrance, larger classrooms for collaborative learning, and an auxiliary gym with a regulation court. It will be designed for flexibility to anticipate a possible PK-4 addition in the future by strategically locating shared spaces, such as a kitchen, and gym. Co-locating adjacent to the high school will also allow for shared administration offices between the two facilities while also maximizing efficiency of staff and grounds by reducing the number of district facilities.
HOW WILL WE PAY FOR IT?
This plan will cost $22 million. To fund this plan, the school board has identified two funding sources including:
- A general obligation bond for $15 million, which voters would be asked to approve on Sept. 11. This will affect property taxes.
- Borrowing $7 million against future revenue from the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE/one-percent sales tax) funds previously approved by Monticello voters. This will not impact voters’ taxes.
On Sept. 11, a date predetermined by state law, residents of the district will be asked to vote on the following referendum. Sixty-percent of voters much approve of the referendum for it to pass:
Shall the Board of Directors of the Monticello Community School District, in the Counties of Jones, Delaware, Linn and Dubuque, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue general obligation bonds in an amount not exceeding $15,000,000 for the purpose of furnishing, equipping, constructing, improving, repairing and renovating school buildings and improving the sites therefor including a new 5-8 grade building located on the existing high school campus, energy and mechanical improvements to existing school buildings, and other site and building improvements?
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MY TAXES?
If approved, taxes would increase by $2.75 per thousand dollars of taxable valuation. Taxable value is not the same as market value. It is also not the same as the assessed value. The taxable value is the value determined by the auditor after application of state-ordered “rollback” percentages for the various classes of property and is the value indicated on the tax statement.
For example, a home with an assessed value of $100,000, after rollbacks and homestead credits have been applied, has a taxable value of $50,771. A $2.75 increase per $1,000 would result in an annual change of $139.62, or the equivalent of $11.63 per month. The average assessed value of Jones County farmland is approximately $2,059. After rollback, the average taxable value is $1,121, resulting in an annual increase of approximately $3.08 an acre annually. Commercial property rates will increase by $247.50 a year, or $20.63 a month.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
In August 2017, a group of 25 community members formed a facilities committee. After months of conversations around the future of education in Monticello, the district hired OPN Architects in December 2017 to conduct assessments of the current elementary schools, middle school and high school and propose options for the district’s existing facility needs. Using the result of OPN’s assessments and analysis of both current and future needs, the committee reviewed all scenarios proposed by the design team and arrived at a long-term solution that addressed the most immediate needs of the aging 100-year-old middle school, while also looking to the future needs of improvements to the high school and a new PK-4 building to replace and consolidate the existing Shannon and Carpenter elementary schools.
In order to meet deadlines, set by the pre-determined date of Sept. 11, the school board approved the bond language and called for a vote on May 9. In the next few weeks, the district will schedule open houses for parents, community members and teachers to discuss concepts and answer questions.
If the bond is successful in September, the design of the new buildings and renovations would begin immediately with the goal for facilities to be complete in 2020. If the bond is not successful, by state law the district will need to wait six months until it is able to call another election. In that time, the needs will not change and the district will need to reallocate SAVE and PPEL funds identified for other district improvements to maintain the existing middle school.
How will adding another school affect campus access and parking?
The design team hired by the district includes civil engineers Hall & Hall. Local to Linn County, Hall & Hall has worked with many area school districts to foresee the impact facility expansions and additions will have on traffic flow. Understanding the potential for congestion, Hall & Hall and OPN have identified separate entrances and exits to the site for buses and cars. In addition, the plan includes 325 additional parking stalls. As Monticello grows and traffic patterns are impacted around the school campus, the district can work with the Iowa Department of Transportation to conduct studies and identify possible solutions, including signage and lights.
The cost of this project will only increase with time, while the existing facilities will continue to deteriorate.
Monticello’s existing middle school isn’t conducive to today’s learning and teaching. A 21st Century Learning Environment isn’t about a magical number of square feet or incorporating the latest technological trend. Rather, it is about designing spaces conducive to today’s learning. Rows of desks, overhead projectors, chalk boards and books no longer describe today’s learning environments. This and future generations will associate schools more with community, technology, creativity, and collaboration. In the digital era, the educational landscape is rapidly transforming. While architects and educators cannot predict the changes to curriculum and technology that will inevitably happen, they can design to avoid early obsolescence with flexible, open spaces that are clearly organized, accessible, and easily adaptable. Schools reflect a community’s personality, pride, and philosophies. Before the design of Monticello’s new facility, OPN Architects will spend time getting to know the community’s collective vision for how the new high school and regional academy as well as the existing high school should be used and what each facility should provide. OPN Architects will help Monticello analyze, assess, and synthesize data, methodologies, and facilities to create a blend of physical, digital, and immersive environments that enable your staff to teach and mentor the next generation of innovators, creators, collaborators, and leaders.
Why are we not renovating our existing middle school?
The district hired OPN Architects to conduct a thorough assessment of its three oldest facilities – Shannon, Carpenter, and the middle school. This assessment was conducted in January, with the goal of understanding the cost of renovating these buildings. In the case of the middle school, the cost to bring the building up to code exceeded the cost of building a new 5-8 school adjacent to the existing high school. The $30 million cost estimate would have solved immediate life and safety issues. It would not have addressed undersized classrooms or created spaces conducive to today’s learning and teaching styles. The nearly 100-year-old building will also only continue to deteriorate over time, requiring the district to defer funds to maintenance. Considering all these factors, the consensus at both community and facility group meetings was to pursue other solutions.
Is the district concerned about co-locating 5th and 8th grade students with high school students?
Many of our peer districts have solved facility issues by co-locating multiple grades on one campus or in one building. Consolidating our high school and middle school will allow for efficiencies in maintenance, travel, and other shared services in the district. The buildings will be connected but operate almost entirely independently. Middle school administrative offices will be located at the juncture of the two buildings ensuring passage between the two is limited to administration, staff, and students only at approved passing times. The district intends to leverage under-utilized spaces in the existing high school for use by middle school students. This use will be supervised and orchestrated to avoid middle and high school students passing at the same time. There are also benefits to co-locating students of varying ages, such as opportunities for mentorship.
Has the district explored other revenue sources?
The Monticello school board and district leadership have been careful stewards both tax payer and state revenue streams. For years, Monticello’s tax levy has routinely ranked well below peer districts. By being fiscally responsible, the district was able to reduce the levy rate in 2019. As a result, when the bond passes, the rate will only represent a 66-cent increase from the district’s highest rate of $14.37 in 2014. The $15 million bond only represents part of the funding plan for the $22 million project. The remainder will be paid for by borrowing against future revenue from the district’s SAVE account, which is generated by the state local option sales tax. Future phases of the district’s long-term facility plan will be paid for using cash on hand in the SAVE account as well as the state facilities funding, commonly referred to as PPEL. By using all sources, the district has been able to form a plan for both the present and future that is fiscally responsible while also addressing near and long-term needs and goals.
What will the new 5-8 building look like?
The new 63,250-square-foot building will have a secure entrance, larger classrooms for collaborative learning, and an auxiliary gym with a regulation court. Classrooms will range in size from 800 to 1,000 square feet depending on the function. By comparison, the current middle school classrooms vary between 400 and 500 square feet. It will be designed for flexibility to anticipate a possible PK-4 addition in the future by strategically locating shared spaces, such as a kitchen, and gym. Co-locating adjacent to the high school will also allow for shared administration offices between the two facilities while also maximizing efficiency of staff and grounds by consolidating multiple district facilities onto one campus. Typical pre-referendum design includes programming – the process by which architects determine space requirements – and floor plans representing the results of the program analysis. After the bond passes, design of the middle school, including these spaces will begin in earnest going from concept to schematic design, to construction documents (also known as architectural drawings) and ultimately construction.
What will happen to the existing softball and soccer practice fields?
The district is exploring opportunities to relocate the fields to accommodate new traffic patterns on the site.
How will the high school be improved?
The high school was built nearly 20 years ago. At that time, school security was addressed differently. Today, the high school needs a new, secure entrance to ensure the safety of all students. In addition, using SAVE funds, not the general obligation bond, the district will address mechanical and exterior issues with the two-decade old facility, ensuring the high school will be able to serve the district for many decades to come.
What’s the plan for the transportation facility?
Phase two of the district’s long-term facility plan includes the construction of a new transportation facility and a to- be-determined site. This project will take place in 2020, using cash funds from the SAVE account, once the new middle school is complete. It will not be paid for using funds approved by the Sept. 11 bond vote.
How do school facilities affect economic development?
Schools are integrally tied to a community’s economic vitality. According to a recent study by real estate search engine Trulia and Harris Interactive, the majority (57 percent) of parents with children under 18 would pay above listing price to live in the neighborhood with ideal schools. This is a fact Monticello already inherently embraces. In 2016, as part of the Heart & Soul Monticello project, more than 2,000 surveys, interviews and meetings throughout the community identified school facilities one of its core values. Specifically, the community collectively agreed that improving school facilities was a vital step to “enhance educational opportunities for our children, maintain our competitive edge, and attract newcomers to the community.”
What will happen to the current administration building?
The district owns this building and intends to re-purpose it for the transitions program.