Education

Linn-Mar bond: Schools counting on voters to back cheaper, $55 million bond

Lower bond, lower tax levy on Linn-Mar's second attempt at bond to build new schools

Jason Kakacek of A&H Electric works on the electronics to a wash faucet as work continues on renovations to bathrooms at Bowman Woods Elementary School in Marion, Iowa, on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Jason Kakacek of A&H Electric works on the electronics to a wash faucet as work continues on renovations to bathrooms at Bowman Woods Elementary School in Marion, Iowa, on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — Voters in the growing Linn-Mar Community School District will decide next month whether the school district can build two new schools.

A $55 million bond question will be on the ballot Sept. 11 in the district, which includes areas of Cedar Rapids, Marion, Robins and rural Linn County. The bond would fund the construction of two new buildings for fifth- and sixth-graders.

The bond, which requires 60 percent voter approval to pass, would increase the district’s property levy rate to about $18.02 per $1,000 assessed value. According to the school district, the owner of $200,000 home would pay about $69 more annually.

“This is all about capacity for us,” Superintendent Shannon Bisgard said Monday, noting the 10-school district of is nearly 94 percent full. “ … By building two buildings, we’re able to address space at nine of our buildings.”

The new schools for grades 5 and 6 would draw fifth-graders from the district’s seven elementary schools and sixth-graders from its two middle schools, creating additional classroom space and easing hallway and cafeteria crowding at those schools.

Bisgard is set to host an informational session about the bond at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Indian Creek Elementary and again Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Bowman Woods Elementary.

Early voting on the issue begins Monday.

The new schools would be built on either side of the district, one near Echo Hill Elementary and one on land the district owns near the intersection of 35th Avenue and 44th Street in Marion. Each would have capacity for about 800 students and a proposed opening date in fall 2020.

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The additional schools would not disrupt which elementary schools feed into which middle schools. Elementary students would stay with their classmates, Bisgard said, and would “just have an extra building on the way to middle school.”

“This doesn’t solve all the problems, but we’ll see pretty immediate space relief,” Bisgard said.

With just over a year since Linn-Mar voters struck down an $80 million bond, Bisgard said the district tried to simplify needs in this year’s smaller bond question.

The 2017 bond question, which failed with only 53 percent approval, would have funded two new schools for grades 5 and 6, a new elementary school and renovations to some existing elementary schools.

Older elementary schools in the district have “desperately needed” renovations, district spokesman Matthew May said. Those projects were completed over the summer by restructuring the district’s 10-year facilities plan.

The district still hopes to build an eighth elementary school soon, Bisgard said. If the Legislature opts to extend SAVE, a penny sales tax that benefits school infrastructure needs, those funds “would directly go to a new elementary school,” he said.

Although district officials remain hopeful legislators will extend the tax, Linn-Mar would likely ask voters to approve another bond if those state dollars aren’t allocated.

“Nothing is going to change the fact that we’re looking at 2 to 3 percent increase of students every year,” May said. “We have to do something to address the capacity issues.”

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What the swelling school district will do if September’s bond fails isn’t a conversation officials have wanted to broach, the superintendent said.

“We have not identified a Plan B,” Bisgard said.

Where and when you can vote

Voters are asked to bring a form of ID to the polls, but an ID is not yet required to cast a ballot. According to the Linn County Auditor’s Office, voters without a valid ID — an Iowa driver’s license, Iowa non-operator ID, U.S. passport, U.S. military ID, an Iowa voter ID card or a tribal ID card — may vote by signing an oath.

Early voting

Aug. 20-Sept. 10, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.: Linn County Auditor’s Office, 935 Second St. SW

Satellite voting

Sept. 7, 4:30-9:30 p.m.: Linn-Mar High School’s first home football game, 3333 10th St., Marion

Election Day voting

September 11, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Linn-Mar residents can vote at any of the following locations:

• Marion Christian Church, 1050 McGowan Blvd., Marion

• Marion Columbus Club, 5650 Kacena Ave., Marion

• Christ Community Church, 3000 Alburnett Road, Marion

• Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 3500 29th Ave, Marion

• First Baptist Church of Marion, 1260 29th St., Marion

• Noelridge Christian Church, 7111 C Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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