After the first attempt failed to pass last year, the Bellevue School Board is moving forward with a second attempt to garner public support to build a new elementary school.
Board members voted last Wednesday to start the process of placing a $14.5 million bond issue on the ballot for Tuesday, April 2, and to start circulating a petition in support of the proposal. An official resolution for the project will be addressed at next Monday’s school board meeting.
“There’s a need now,” Superintendent Tom Meyer said. “It’s not a need five years from now, or 10 years from now. It’s a need now.”
If all goes as school officials hope, the district would construct a new elementary school near the high school on land purchased last year from the Mootz family just north of west State Street.
The new measure will be a bit less than last year’s $16 million proposal. School officials have scaled back plans in this second attempt for the new building.
Under the news plan, the proposed elementary school would be about 56,000 square feet, smaller than the 70,000-square-foot project that was rejected by district voters last year.
The shape of the building would also be more traditional than what was proposed last year. Hallways would be narrower, some rooms would be eliminated and the building would have a more rectangular shape instead of being curved.
The new building would replace the current elementary school, part of which was built in 1848. While additions to the original building (which once served as the county courthouse) were made in the 1800s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the building still holds the moniker for being the oldest school building in use in the state of Iowa.
The effort to build a new elementary school in Bellevue, however, failed to pass last September, with 43 percent voting yes and 57 voting no.
According to the numbers from the Jackson County Auditor’s office, 1,887 patrons (54 percent) of the Bellevue School District cast ballots out of 3,300 eligible voters.
The measure would have needed at least 60 percent approval to pass, as will be the case with the second attempt on April 2.
Allysen Bonifas, who made the motion to move forward with the petition for a $14.5 million bond issue at last week’s special meeting (seconded by Janet Sieverding), said she hopes to find more support and continue the efforts to inform and educate voters on the need for a new school.
She noted that school leaders have been meeting with parents and other community members to offer various tours of the elementary school.
The tours and engagement spurred the facilities committee to take another run at achieving a new school.
If the bond measure is approved on April 2, the district’s property tax levy would increase from $2.70 per $1,000 of taxable valuation to between $3.70 and $3.80 per $1,000.
At $3.75 per $1,000, the taxes on a home valued at $100,000 would increase by $195.24 per year or just over $16 per month. The average value of a home in Bellevue, however, is $182,000. Rural parts of the school district not in the city limits, including farm land would also see increases in property taxes.
Meyer said that approving a measure for a new school sooner rather than later, however, could help keep the cost of the project from increasing in the future. He noted that interest rates are increasing, as well as costs for building materials.
District leaders plan to schedule community-wide meetings on the new elementary proposal in February and March leading up to the vote in April.