Local-option taxes fund new schools for area districts

Three buildings, similar paths

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Grouping the Anamosa, Independence and Washington school districts together wouldn’t seem like a first instinct. Yet the three Eastern Iowa school systems took almost identical routes to finance the construction of new buildings.

Anamosa Middle School

The school was scheduled to open today, but confusion over a final state inspection delayed the building’s first day of classes until Monday.

The Anamosa Community School District funded the $16.6 million school, which will house grades five through eight and replace Anamosa West Middle School, through a combination of local-option sales tax dollars and qualified school construction bonds. The sales tax revenue will actually be used to pay off the bonds, some of which extend through 2029.

A section of the building dubbed Area D — two locker rooms, the gymnasium and a multipurpose room — is still not complete. Superintendent Brian Ney said he hopes to open Area D around Nov. 1.

“For months and years of school board life I’ve been looking forward to this middle school,” said school board member Connie McKean said.

Independence Junior Senior High School

Independence Superintendent Jean Peterson hopes to have this new building open by August 2013, in time for the start of the next school year.

As planned, the 170,000-square foot structure will house students in grades seven through 12. The projected cost to construct the building is $27.5 million, which is being funded in part through local-option sales tax dollars and a $12.8 million bond referendum, which voters passed last September after previous attempts fell short at the ballot box.

“I think this one passed because we put together a committee with community people in it,” Peterson said. “I think people here felt like it was time. Especially people with younger families, I think they felt like it was time.”

Washington High School

It took four failed bond votes for officials in the Washington school district to figure out a way to fund construction of an addition to the former junior high school. The extra 90,000 square feet bring the new building’s total area to 140,000 square feet and a cost just shy of $15 million, all funded through local-option sales tax money. The tax is set to be in effect for two decades.

The old high school, which becomes the new junior high school when classes begin today, catered to students in grades 10 through 12. The new high school adds ninth-graders and the junior high, which housed seventh-through-ninth-grade learners, will become a middle school for sixth-through-eighth-grade students.

“It was needed,” Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said. “I think people are pretty happy with the facility now that it’s done and now that they’ve gotten a chance to see the building.” 

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