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Shall the Board of Directors of the Benton Community School District in the Counties of Benton, Tama and Iowa, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $48,500,000 to provide funds to build, furnish, and equip a new elementary building in Van Horne and to acquire and improve the site; to build, furnish and equip an addition to Atkins Elementary building and related remodeling; to implement HVAC systems and safety improvements at the Middle/High School building; to remodel, improve, furnish and equip existing spaces in the Middle/High School building, including a secure entryway?
Shall the Board of Directors of the Benton Community School District in the Counties of Benton, Tama and Iowa, State of Iowa, be authorized to levy annually a tax exceeding Two Dollars and Seventy Cents ($2.70) per Thousand Dollars ($1,000), but not exceeding Four Dollars and Five Cents ($4.05) per Thousand Dollars ($1,000) of the assessed value of the taxable property within said school corporation to pay the principal of and interest on bonded indebtedness of said school corporation, it being understood that the approval of this proposition shall not limit the source of payment of the bonds and interest, but shall only operate to restrict the amount of bonds which may be issued?
Patrons voting will be asked 2 ballot questions. You need to answer both questions in the same manner - for example, if you select "Yes" on the 1st question, you will need to select "Yes" on the 2nd question for the vote to count as a Yes vote.
General obligation tax bonds are used to repair and renovate schools, build schools, and construct additions.
General obligation bonds cannot be used to fund staff or teacher salaries or school programming needs.
The amount of bonding capacity within a district is determined by a school districts constitutional debt limit (5% cap on assessed valuations) and the ability to pay off the debt.
Bonds cannot be sold without voter approval at an election called a referendum.
Absentee Ballot Information
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Why Build a New Elementary School in Van Horne and not Atkins?
We have received some questions from the community on why the new elementary school is proposed for Van Horne, not Atkins.
* The Board's goal is to serve all of our students - district-wide. The plan for facility improvements addresses our facility needs district-wide.
* ~300 students live on the west side of our campus. A new more centrally located elementary would serve our entire school district.
* The entire school district has seen steady but slow growth over the past 5 years. We are growing at 1-2% most years. A few years back, we experienced some decline in enrollment (e.g. 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018). However, we anticipate 1-2% growth over the next 10 years, but this hinges on many variables that are out of our control.
*The growth occurring in our district is coming from a variety of places.
*Atkins as a community is experiencing some growth. However, a 1-2% growth does not equate to needing a significant number of additional classrooms at Atkins Elementary. It takes numerous years to need multiple additional classrooms across the district, and many other variables such as planned developments, city infrastructure, and the level at which the current elementary could handle many more classrooms before another type of facility might be needed. The current plan is to add a new cafeteria and remodel spaces for classrooms. The analysis for the number of classrooms needed reflects our 1-2% growth as well as the anticipated # of students from future new developments
*Many factors come into play when considering where to build a school.
*The School Board is working on a long-range plan for 10-15 years out and will build in plans for more improvements.
We sat down with K-12 education architect and planner Tandi Brannaman of Shive-Hattery Architects and Engineers to share more about what growth looks like in Benton Community School District.
* What information do we examine when we look at school district growth?
- Shive-Hattery examines factors including: overall enrollment over the past 5 – 10 years, growth or decline in communities within the school district’s boundaries, available land for development (location, proximity to utilities, environmental considerations such as floodplains, developer interest and funding availability, timing of land development vs. project timing, etc.), district demographics, real estate trends, etc.
- The District has buildings within multiple communities within the district, so growth must be examined across all district communities
What did Shive-Hattery and the Benton Facilities Study Advisory Committee see for trends in growth in the school district?
- Steady but slow growth over the past 10-15 years – about 1-2% district-wide growth per year
- For example, Atkins is experiencing growth (including recent residential development), but still a slow growth. Infrastructure capacity may also slow this growth, which is typical for any growing community as it balances residential and infrastructure growth.
* How does this compare to neighboring districts experiencing rapid growth?
- Some of our Corridor school districts experiencing exponential district-wide growth share boundaries touching on all sides (for example, North Liberty or Tiffin). These can average from 6-12% district-wide growth per year. One community may accumulate more than 200 students over 5 years, if residential growth is rapid. Much of this growth is driven by new families attracted to the area.
- Within Benton County, some new homes within our community may be filled by families already attending our district through open enrollment. This grade distribution is typically even, as well.
* What do the improvements at Atkins Elementary entail?
- Improvements at Atkins Elementary have been carefully determined to appropriately serve students at the current growth rate, while not overbuilding the school (straining support spaces or resulting in underutilized or unoccupied spaces).
- Spaces which are currently inadequately sized include the cafeteria, kitchen, and classrooms.
- Long term, the District is examining additional growth challenges across the District over the next 10 years.
How many students would attend? PK-6th Elementary in Van Horne
IN THE NEWS
Vinton Eagle, Benton Community School Election Notice 2.21.23
Benton Community School District Website, March 7, 2023 Bond Referendum Vote Polling Locations
Vinton Eagle, Benton to host public sessions for upcoming bond referendum vote. 2.7.23
KGAN, Report on Public Information Session held at Atkins Elementary on 1.23.23. 1.24.22
KCRG, Benton Community School District hosts meeting discussing bond vote (12.12.2022)
Iowa News Now, Benton CSD holding public information sessions on proposed $48.5M bond referendum (12.12.2022)
CBS 2 Iowa, Benton CSD holding public information sessions on proposed $48.5M bond referendum (12.12.2022)
Vinton Today, Benton Community Schools asks residents in the district for $48.5 Million (12.7.2022)
CBS 2 Iowa, Benton Community School District looking to pass $48.5 million referendum in March (12.5.2022)
The Gazette, Benton schools considering $48.5M bond referendum (12.5.2022)
KCRG, Benton school district to host meetings over possible new elementary school (12.2.2022)
Iowa News Now, Benton Community School District to hold informational bond referendum meetings (12.2.2022)
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Use our tax calculator (linked above) to understand how your taxes may change. (Please reach out to Central Office if you have any trouble with the calculator or would like support in figuring.)
You can find the information shared in the presentation at the Public Information Sessions linked here.
Information provided - at our already scheduled school events and activities. Visual posters and diagrams, including our information handouts will be provided at many of our scheduled school events and activities.
Dec. 12, 2022 - Virtual Public Information Session
Dec. 13, 2022 - Public Information Poster Session, Norway Intermediate, posters, visuals and handouts available.
Dec. 14, 2022 - Mayor and Community Leaders Meeting - Public Information Session, Keystone Elementary
Dec. 15, 2022 - visuals, handouts at wrestling meet
Dec. 16, 2022 - Board members share information and available for questions at the basketball games, 5:00 p.m.
Dec. 19, 2022 - Public Information Session, Norway Intermediate.
Dec. 19, 2022 - Holiday Java, posters, visuals, and handouts available at High School.
Dec. 20, 2022 - Public Information Session, Keystone Elementary
Jan. 7, 2023 - Wrestling Invitational, posters, visuals, handouts available
Jan. 8, 2023 - Benton Youth Wrestling Tournament, posters, visuals, handouts available.
Jan. 11, 2023 - Public Information Session, Middle/High School
Jan. 23, 2023 - Public Information Session, Atkins Elementary
Feb. 6, 2023 - at Preschool & Kdg. registration: posters, visuals, & handouts, ask any Administrator questions
Feb. 6, 2023 - Public Information Session, Blairstown, Community Center
Feb. 8, 2023 - Mayor and Community Leaders Meeting, Public Information Session, Norway Intermediate
Feb. 8, 2023 - Public Information Session, Elberon Community Center
Feb. 8, 2023 - Public Information Session, St. Patrick's Church, Watkins
Feb. 11, 2023 - Public Poster Session, Touch of Class, High School
Feb. 13, 2023 - Public Information Session, Newhall Main Park Pavilion
Feb. 16, 2023 - Public Information Session, Lion's Club, Van Horne
Feb. 20, 2023 - Public Poster Session, 7-12 Grade Parent/Teacher Conferences, Middle/High School
Feb. 22, 2023 - Mayor and Community Leaders Meeting, Public Information Session, Middle/High School
March 1, 2023 - Public Poster Session, PK-6 Grade Parent/Teacher Conferences, Atkins Elementary, Keystone Elementary and Norway Intermediate
Benton’s Facilities Study Advisory Committee began in 2020 and participated in a year-long study of facilities, including brainstorming and scoping work sessions, surveys and prioritization exercises.
A diverse group of 35 volunteers representing the viewpoints of community members, staff, and students participated. Through the process, the Committee completed a robust evaluation of the information and helped create suggestions for current improvement needs for the District’s facilities. The school board unpacked the information, data, and recommendations provided by the FSAC committee to determine the main priorities aligned with funding possibilities.
The school board will continue to develop a long-range facilities plan based on these needs to provide our students with 21st-Century Learning Environments. The goal is to provide modern, safe, and equitable facilities that are sustainable for staff, students, and families. The improvements will set the foundation for the district to offer robust academic and extracurricular activities and rewarding experiences for students, staff, and families while being fiscally responsible in our decisions.
The Benton Community School District is proposing a $48.5 million general obligation bond (in addition to approximately $10 million sales tax revenue to cover the balance) referendum on March 7, 2023, for long-overdue facility improvements.
ON THE BALLOT
Improvements at Atkins Elementary School
New addition (cafeteria/commons) and renovations, including additional classroom space.
Upgrades at the Middle/High School
Heating, cooling, electrical & safety upgrades. Remodel, improve and furnish and equip existing spaces including an improved, secure primary entryway.
New PK-6th Elementary Building in Van Horne
To provide modern, accessible, & adaptable facilities to support the evolving needs of the District. Including a regulation-sized basketball court with spectator bleachers.
Dec. 6, 2022 - PRESS RELEASE
BENTON COMMUNITY MARCH 2023 BOND REFERENDUM
Van Horne, IA Dec. 6, 2022 – The Benton Community School District will propose a $48.5 million general obligation bond (in addition to sales tax revenue to cover the balance) referendum on March 7, 2023, for long-overdue facility improvements. The School Board prioritized projects to deal with growth at Atkins Elementary School, upgrades to the middle school/high school and a new elementary school in Van Horne.
“The School Board reviewed our master plan and priorities from the Facilities Committee,” said Superintendent Dr. Ewell. “This collaboration, along with Shive-Hattery architects and engineers, led to the next steps in the improvement process.”
If the bond referendum achieves a majority (60% approval), the district will move forward with a renovation and addition at Atkins Elementary School to accommodate growth. Heating, cooling, electrical, and safety upgrades at the High School and Middle School. A new PK-6th grade elementary school in Van Horne to provide modern, accessible, and adaptable facilities to support the evolving needs of the district. A petition will be circulated including the facts and figures about the needed building program to inform residents of the district.
Project timing will depend on a successful passage of a bond referendum in March of 2023. Design of projects will likely begin immediately after the passage of the referendum. Construction will start on improvements as early as Spring 2024. Length of construction timelines will vary with some improvements completed in 2025 and a new school potentially opening in time for the 2026/2027 school year. Depending on growth projections, it is the district’s intent upon opening of the new school for students attending or expected to attend Keystone Elementary and Norway Intermediate to instead attend the new elementary school.
“Benton’s Facilities Advisory Committee participated in a year-long study of facilities, including brainstorming and scoping work sessions, surveys and prioritization exercises,” Dr. Ewell said. “This diverse group of 35 volunteers, represents the viewpoints of community members, staff and students. Their robust evaluation of the information helped create an overall master plan for the District’s facilities.”
The Benton Community School District geographic footprint covers 332 square miles and includes the communities of Atkins, Blairstown, Elberon, Keystone, Newhall, Norway, Van Horne and Watkins. The district includes 1,690 students and four buildings – Atkins Elementary, Keystone Elementary, Norway Intermediate and Benton Middle/High School.
Dr. Pamela Ewell, Superintendent, Benton Community School District
November 29, 2022 Communication
Planning continues for improvements to facilities at Benton Community School District. Our facility needs exceed the funds available to the district. As a result, a school bond referendum (General Obligation Bond) will likely be in March 2023. Detailed project scopes and timelines will be dependent upon a successful bond referendum which requires approval by a supermajority of voters (60%).
The School Board has reviewed the master plan and the Committee’s prioritized needs and has explored the next steps in the improvement process. Together with Shive-Hattery architects and engineers, they have refined the priorities and aligned the improvements with the District’s potential funding sources for projects.
Potential Facility Improvements
Priorities identified by the Board that may be included as part of a bond referendum are:
· Improvements at Atkins Elementary School to accommodate growth
· Heating, cooling, electrical, and safety upgrades at the High School and Middle School
· A new PK-6th grade elementary school in Van Horne to provide modern, accessible, and adaptable facilities to support the evolving needs of the district
Timing of Facility Improvements
Project timing will depend on a successful passage of a bond referendum in March of 2023.
Design of projects will likely begin immediately after the passage of the referendum. Construction will start on improvements as early as Spring 2024. Length of construction timelines will vary, with some improvements completed in 2025 and a new school potentially opening in Van Horne in time for the 2026/2027 school year.
Options for other district facilities, such as Norway Intermediate, Keystone Elementary and the old Van Horne Elementary, will be explored.
Expect to see more information, data, and detail on our website, media outlets, email messages, and our district Facebook page yet this week!
The school Board will be scheduling public information sessions in December and January. The dates, times, and locations will be sent out very soon. Keep checking your email and our website at www.benton.k12.ia.us
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BentonCSD
Benton Community School District Administration