IVCCD Bond Referendum overview
Thursday / February 28, 2019
The Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) Board of Directors has voted to put a $32 million General Obligation Bond Referendum before voters on Tuesday, April 2. Approval of the bond referendum will help the District do the following:
- Support dual credit programs that allow high school students to get needed job training and save money on future college credits. The average high school student saves $1,656 annually in future college tuition by earning dual credits locally.
- Expand and improve STEM-related education programs.
- Greatly improve and upgrade safety and security across all campuses to ensure that students, faculty and staff are protected.
- Benefit local business and industry by supplying a steady flow of qualified, trained workers into the workforce.
At a Feb. 13 Board meeting, IVCCD Board President Larry Johnson of Iowa Falls said, “We’ve been talking about this for a while, and the need is absolutely critical. It’s not an easy thing to do, but we owe it to our constituents to take care of our facilities. This is about safety, security and sustainability for our colleges.”
IVCCD operates Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Marshalltown Community College, Iowa Valley Continuing Education, and Iowa Valley Grinnell. According to the District’s Facilities Master Plan, there are more than 505,560 square feet of building space in Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek and Tama Counties. Many of the District’s facilities were constructed in the 1970s and 1980s and are in need of updates and repairs.
“People keep asking me what’s ‘sexy’ about this bond issue, but the truth of the matter is that many spaces on our campuses are outdated and we have infrastructure problems that need to be addressed very quickly,” said Dr. Chris Duree, IVCCD Chancellor. “This bond issue is about enabling our community colleges to continue serving local students and training the local workforce in support of area employers. It’s about enabling us to continue to provide college credit programs to high school students, which in the last fiscal year saved those students and their families $2.2 million. It’s about ensuring that our facilities are safe and accessible for students and staff. The needs aren’t ‘sexy,’ but they are definitely ‘mission critical’ for us.”
Duree said the District began conducting a Facility Needs Analysis in 2017 with assistance from TSP, Inc., a local architectural and engineering firm. TSP conducted a comprehensive assessment, provided cost estimates based on industry standards, and prioritized the needs. That plan was presented to the IVCCD Board in April 2018, and the Board originally planned to put the bond issue before voters in December 2018. The vote was put on hold after the July 19 tornado hit Marshalltown.
“We already had a group of community leaders with whom we’d been discussing this bond issue prior to the tornado,” explained Duree. “We felt that it was appropriate to delay at least until 2019, so that’s what we did. In December and January our conversations with the Board and those community leaders led us to believe that although there’s never a ‘perfect time,’ April 2019 is reasonable to put the issue before voters. We also hired a firm to do voter testing, and the results showed that those who were informed about the general obligation bond issue were more than 70 percent likely to support it at the polls.”
The other issue on the minds of the IVCCD Board is Dr. Duree’s impending June 30 retirement. “Dr. Duree has built tremendous relationships with stakeholders in our communities districtwide,” says Johnson. “We think it’s important that he be involved in this effort, and I know that he feels strongly that passage of this bond issue in April will ensure that the District is able to move forward to address many critical facility needs in the next few years.”
With projects in the IVCCD Facilities Master Plan totaling more than $32 million, the options for funding those projects are use of the Unrestricted Plant Fund, a 20 ¼ cent levy that brings in about $1 million per year, or a General Obligation Bond. Duree says the District pays part of its utilities (over $1 million annually) from the Plant Fund, and that fund will never be sufficient to address more than a few of the most urgent needs in any given year.
If approved by voters on April 2, the 10-year general obligation bond will take effect in 2021.
“On a $32 million general obligation bond, the tax rate averages about 71 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation annually for 10 years,” says Duree. “For a residential homeowner with a $100,000 assessed valuation at the current rollback rate, the increase in property taxes averages $3.38 per month, or $40.52 per year, for 10 years. What we want to emphasize to voters is that even at its highest point in that first year, the total levy rate for IVCCD will be less than it was back in 2017. That’s because we’ve worked hard to lower our total levy rate in each of the past nine years. It’s also important for voters to understand that the levy is assessed over a 10-county area, which lessens the impact significantly.”
“We are doing due diligence to get out into our communities and visit with the media, meet with community groups, and get information into the hands of our stakeholders,” says Duree. “Information about polling places will be published as we get closer to the election date. In the meantime, we invite questions and encourage dialog. Our communities have a huge stake in our colleges and our facilities, which are used year-round. To continue to be viable, we must compete with the community colleges that surround us (Iowa Central, NIACC, Hawkeye, Kirkwood, Indian Hills and DMACC), and we must be able to attract students. We are determined to succeed at that!”