Mount Vernon $15.9 million bond would fund arts and sports facilities, classrooms

Tuesday ballot issue would push property taxes toward top end in state

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MOUNT VERNON — A $15.9 million bond for the Mount Vernon school district would pay for a new performing arts complex at the high school, a new athletics complex and the addition and renovation of classrooms at the district’s three schools.

If approved, the bond repayment and interest would increase the school district’s property tax rate to one of the highest in the state — around $20.47 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

The measure requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Vernon City Hall, 213 First St. NE.

The tax rate after the bond issue would be about $2 more per $1,000 assessed valuation, according to the Linn County Auditor’s Office.

That means the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 — the average assessed home value in Mount Vernon — would pay about $211 more per year in school property taxes, according to a fact sheet created by the school district. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $179 more per year in school taxes.

“The way things are structured now, with less money coming from Des Moines, small communities have to struggle with variables out of their control,” Superintendent Gary O’Malley said. “Sometimes our facilities need to be updated, and we have to go back to the public and ask for their support.”

O’Malley said the bond would meet a variety of needs in the district.

“We don’t think anything here is extravagant,” he said. “Instead, we think these are necessary upgrades that will reflect a real investment in this school district and this community.”

A portion of the bond would go toward a new auditorium for the high school. Currently, the middle school auditorium is shared by the district’s 1,300 students.

The new performing arts center would seat 813 — double the current auditorium’s capacity — and give students new production resources such as revamped lighting and sound, and modernized dressing rooms and backstage areas.

“We’ve got a fine arts department that’s excellent,” O’Malley said. “We’d love to have a theater that can support that.”

The proposed new athletic complex — located closer to the high school and with easy-to-maintain turf — would be large enough to hold multiple practices at once, O’Malley said.

“That’s why it’s not called a football field,” he said. “It’s a mutli-activities complex.”

The complex would be large enough for a track meet and would also be used by physical education classes.

The bond also would fund the renovation and addition of classrooms at all three of the district’s schools, plus pay for ventilation renovations, air-conditioning additions, more parking at the high school and six tennis courts.

“This referendum has a balance of needs — needs in fine arts, needs in activities and athletics, and academic needs,” O’Malley said. “There’s been a strong effort on the part of the community and the school district to make sure there were many needs addressed in this referendum.

“We’ll have to see what the public decides. It’s their vote, and we’re going to honor the choices that they make come September 13.”

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