Let’s clear up referendum misconceptions
A week from today, residents of New Hampton Community Schools will head to the polls to decide the fate of a $19.415 million bond referendum.This has been, to say the least, an interesting process, and if there’s one thing that we do appreciate, it’s the fact that this School Board and New Hampton’s superintendent, Jay Jurrens, have worked hard to remain transparent throughout the process.Then again, we didn’t expect anything less because, in our opinion, Jurrens and the School Board did the same thing when it came to the $29 million bond referendum that was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in September 2014.While we will not take a stand on this referendum, we do appreciate a few things that have happened in the past 2 1/2 years.Start with the fact that those who sat on the School Board in 2014 listened carefully to the no voters, who pretty much point blank told school district leaders that a $3.20 per $1,000 valuation was simply too big of a pill to swallow and that they were uncomfortable with abandoning the downtown campus.They also wanted a “second opinion” when it came to the district’s facility issues, which the board sought and received during the spring and summer of 2015.We believe that both those in favor and those against next Tuesday’s referendum can agree that Jurrens, the School Board and those who served on the building committee have done their homework in the past 2 1/2 years.Yet, despite a plethora of public informational meetings — ranging from those held at the current middle school to those given to organizations and service clubs to those held in small towns like Alta Vista, Ionia and Jerico — there remains some major misconceptions when it comes to the referendum that we, as a school community, will vote on next week.We’d like to deal with some of those today.• First, let’s talk about who will pay for this project, for we here at the Tribune have heard from folks outside of the school district who believe they will see their property taxes increase if the referendum is approved.Those who will see a tax increase — which figures out to be a $1.60 per $1,000 valuation — are those who own property within the confines of the school district’s boundaries. That means folks in Nashua or Lawler or Fredericksburg need not worry about their taxes going up if this referendum is approved by at least “60 percent-plus one voter.”The reality is that most of us who live within the school district’s boundaries will be affected by a yes vote. Obviously, property owners will see taxes increase, and for those of us who rent our homes, businesses and farmland, our rents are in all likelihood going to go up.• We also believe there is a misconception that New Hampton will be gouged by Facilities Cost Management Group, the district’s owner representative, which will charge New Hampton 7.5 percent of the project cost for its services.But even if New Hampton had gone the “traditional route” when it comes to building a new school, architects generally charge 7.5 percent, and that figure does not include items like mechanical and electrical engineering fees, which are part of the services FCMG will cover with its contract.• We have also heard concerns that the proposed new middle school does not meet fire codes.First off, a final set of plans has yet to be submitted because the district, like virtually every other district in Iowa, won’t have a technical drawing completed until after the referendum is approved. Those technical architect drawings are expensive, and the district, rightfully so, has a “why-spend-that-money-until-we-need-to” attitude.And in all seriousness, if the referendum is approved, no licensed contractor is going to put up a building that doesn’t meet fire and safety codes.• Finally, we have heard over and over that farmers will bore the brunt of the referendum, and we think voters should understand that simply is not the case.The district’s financing plan for this referendum has state sales-tax money providing a shade over 40 percent of the bond payments, farmland and residential property each paying just under 25 percent of the bill and commercial and industrial property paying a little less than 10 percent.But if you have questions these issues or any others, call Jurrens at 641-394-2134 or, better yet, attend the final informational meeting that will be held Thursday evening at the New Hampton Middle School Auditorium.Without sounding melodramatic, this is an important vote in the history of New Hampton Community Schools. Let’s do our part to make sure that when we go to the polls next Tuesday, all of us are ready to cast an informed vote, one clear of misconception.