Education

School votes Tuesday in Mount Vernon, Alburnett will decide fate of new arts center, bus purchase

Mount Vernon seeking arts center, Alburnett new buses

The auditorium at the Mount Vernon Middle School is shown. Voters in the school district on Tuesday will vote on a $12.8 million general obigation bond that would pay for a two-classroom addition at the middle school and for a new performing arts center at the high school. (Gazette file photo)
The auditorium at the Mount Vernon Middle School is shown. Voters in the school district on Tuesday will vote on a $12.8 million general obigation bond that would pay for a two-classroom addition at the middle school and for a new performing arts center at the high school. (Gazette file photo)

Voters in the Mount Vernon and Alburnett school districts will decide in special elections Tuesday whether to approve additional funding for their public schools.

In the Mount Vernon Community School District, a $12.8 million general obligation bond would pay for a new performing arts center addition to the high school. It requires a supermajority of 60 percent to pass.

In the Alburnett Community School District — which includes areas of Hiawatha and rural Linn County — voters will choose whether to increase the district’s physical plant and equipment levy, or PPEL, by 67 cents to pay for new school buses. It requires a simple majority to pass.

In both districts, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The new voter ID law requires voters to bring an approved ID — such as a driver’s license, a passport or a state ID — to the polls.

The Mount Vernon polling place is at City Hall, 213 First St. NW.

The Alburnett polling place is at the United Methodist Church, 221 S. Main Ave.

MOUNT VERNON

The general obligation bond on the ballot in Mount Vernon would maintain the district’s current property tax rate of $18.41 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

It will be the district’s second bond measure in as many years. In September 2016, voters rejected a $15.9 million bond issue that would have paid for a performing arts center and an athletics complex.

Tuesday’s measure includes similar projects, Mount Vernon school board president Sherry Grunder said — but without the athletics complex.

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“After the last bond failed, we did a survey in the community, and we found that that was one of the biggest sticking points,” Grunder said.

Some residents also bristled at the 2016 bond’s nearly $2 increase to the district’s property tax rate, she said.

“Some of the people that were concerned about the last bond are very supportive this time,” Grunder said. “So I’m hopeful that’s a good sign that it’s going to pass.”

The bond issue also would pay for remodeling of several high school classrooms, a two-classroom addition and secure entry at the middle school and a two-classroom addition at Washington Elementary.

As of Friday morning, about 300 absentee ballots had been returned in the election, according to the Linn County Auditor’s Office.

About 4,800 registered voters live in the district, which includes portions of Linn, Jones and Johnson counties.

ALBURNETT

The ballot proposal would double the Alburnett district’s PPEL levy — from 67 cents to $1.34 per $1,000 assessed valuation — for five years.

The additional funds would pay for new school buses, Superintendent Dani Trimble said.

About two-thirds of the students in the largely rural district in northern Linn County ride a school bus, she said.

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“I think our community understands the purpose of the levy and is supportive of getting those newer, more reliable buses for their children,” Trimble said.

The oldest bus has been in operation for 22 years, she said, adding the plan is to add one new bus a year if the PPEL increase is approved.

PPEL funds can be used to pay for building upkeep, technology and vehicles, in addition to other school maintenance needs.

Fewer than 40 people have cast early ballots in the special election, according to the Linn County Auditor’s Office.

About 2,400 registered voters live in the district.

ALBURNETT COUNCIL

Voters living in the city of Alburnett also will find a City Council race on their ballots. Josh Henriksen and David Wood are vying to fill a council vacancy.

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