SL School District reveals new Early Childhood options

Friday, March 29, 2019

After a failed bond vote on their last plan, Superintendent Stacey Cole has revealed the details of four new options for Storm Lake Community School District’s Early Childhood Education Center.

The options range in total cost from $25.8 million to $38.6 million, with a range of levy increases from $1.63 to $2.88 per $1,000 property evaluation.

Option 1

The first option would be basically the same plan, a pre-k-1st grade building that was put to a vote before, giving voters a second chance to say yes. It is the second most expensive option at $37 million total cost, with the highest levy increase of $2.88.

Option 2

The second option would build the project in three phases, easing the tax impact of each phase. The first phase would include a base building, as well as a gym added onto the Middle School to hold the district over until the other two phases are complete. Phase 2 would not start until Phase 1’s debt is repaid.

If a gym is added to the Middle School, the school’s current multipurpose room would be converted into two classrooms.

“We must have space by the time our third graders get to middle school,” said Cole of the situation’s urgency.

Phase one of this option would build the Kindergarten wing at a cost of $22.6 million, Phase 2 would be for pre-school at $8 million and Phase 3 would be for first grade at a cost of $7.6 million.

“It would be the same space, at a slower pace,” than the first option, Cole said. Though the cost spread out over phases would cost an extra $1.6 million overall, the tax burden would be lighter. The levy increase for this plan would amount to $1.63.

This option would only require a one question vote on the ballot because of its lighter impact on taxpayers, unlike all of the other options that would require two questions.

Phase Two of this plan would likely not start until 2027, Cole estimated.

Option 3

Options three and four are a “scaled down” version of the building.

The third option would build a Pre-K and kindergarten wing, plus a gym at the Middle School. First graders would stay at the elementary school with this option. It would come at a cost of $25.8 million with a $1.93 levy increase.

Option 4

Option four would offer the same size building as Option 3, except built at the East Elementary location to give those who favor that location a say in the matter.

The cost to this would be slightly higher at $25.9 million, since demolition would be an added cost.

The district will be getting the word out to hear from parents and taxpayers at next week’s Elementary Family Fun night, Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Elementary School, as well as Wednesday at the District Central Office from 2 to 6 p.m.

Though it’s not possible to put the size of Option 1’s building at the East property, the Pre-K and kindergarten site would be enough to relieve pressure from the Elementary School, Cole told the Pilot-Tribune. Coupled with the added gym at the Middle School, she says the district could make do.

“We worked and worked and tried to get the (project cost) below that $20 million mark, because we knew that was our threshold,” the superintendent said. “But when we did that, we were always missing something the school really needed.”

Surveys will also be distributed at retail location like HyVee, as well as restaurants and cafes. From there, the district will tabulate results to put the best one up for a vote.

Cole anticipates an August vote for the next ballot question.

“We are going to ask (the public) to take a hard look at the design options,” she said, as the district attempts to serve the pressing needs of students in a district bursting at the seams while appeasing tax payers.

To help ease the tax burden, the district also has increased the income surtax option on its PPEL levy, from 3 percent to 4 percent, to decrease the burden to property owners.

“One thing we heard in the survey was that everybody should pay for education, not just property owners,” said Cole.