Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Tuesday, January 24
Official ballot language reads:
Shall the Board of Directors of the Linn-Mar Community School District in the County of Linn, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $27,500,000 to provide funds to build, equip and furnish two PreK-5 elementary buildings, including site preparation; and renovate, improve, remodel, repair, furnish, equip and construct an addition to the High School; and renovate, improve, remodel, repair Novak Elementary; and renovate, improve, remodel Oak Ridge as a middle school?
More specifically, the $27.5 million bond referendum will be used for:
Sixty percent of those voting must approve the referendum in order for it to pass.
The Linn County Auditor's Office will conduct satellite voting in the Linn-Mar district on the following dates:
Absentee ballots are
now available. To obtain an absentee ballot, patrons
may contact the Linn County Auditor’s Office in writing by sending an
official absentee ballot request form, which may be obtained at
http://www.sos.state.ia.us/PDFS/AbsenteeBallotApp2002.pdf, or in
person at the election office,
There are 3 regular polling locations:
NOELRIDGE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS HALL
ü The first on property the district owns on 50th Street in Marion.
ü The second elementary school will be built on the Oak Ridge site off Alburnett Road.
If approved, the first elementary would be slated for opening in the Fall of 2007 and the second elementary would be opened in the Fall of 2009 unless enrollment growth necessitated an earlier opening date. The High School project would be completed by the end of the summer in 2008; and Novak renovations would be completed over the next two years. Oak Ridge would be converted to a middle school when the second elementary school is opened.
The cost projections for each project were determined through consultation with architects, comparison of current costs of similar projects, and through facility analysis.
Elements of the plan were recommended as long as 10 years ago. Over the past 8 years, architects and engineering firms have been working with the district to identify needs and develop plans. The impetus for the construction and renovation, though, comes primarily from the growth in enrollment that Linn-Mar has experienced over the past 10 years. In 1995-96 school year, Linn-Mar’s certified enrollment was 4097; by 2000-01 school year it had increased to 4998. Today the certified enrollment is 5781. In the past 10 years, the increase in the number of students is 1684. Projecting enrollment increase for the next three years puts total enrollment at 6015 to start the 2007-08 school year. There are considerably more kindergarten aged children entering the district than there are 12th grade graduating seniors. In the past four years this difference has accounted for 601 students.
In the spring of 2004 a group of 36 community members and staff met as a Strategic Planning Committee to map out goals that would keep the focus on quality learning. Four goal areas included facilities and accommodating growth: upgrading and renovating current facilities and buildings; building capacity to accommodate growth in enrollment, addressing the modernizations needs at Novak, and upgrade, relocate, and develop facilities that would be low maintenance while still providing a wide variety of extracurricular experiences for our students.
Is the market value of my home the same as the assessed value?
On what would the increase in my property taxes for this referendum be based?
The market value of a home is based on what it would sell for in the current real estate market, which is a supply-demand market. Assessed value, however, is not the same as market value. The assessed value of your home is determined by the county assessor and is calculated on several factors, including comparison of like properties, location and condition.
The calculation of your property taxes is based off a completely different value, the taxable value. For homeowners in the state of Iowa, the taxable value is currently lower than the assessed value. This difference is due to what is call a roll back factor. The roll back factor is a percentage determined by the state to apply to the assessed value of all property to come up the taxable value. For the next tax year, the roll back factor for residential property is 45.9960% down from the current year of 47.9642%. That means all residential property will only be taxed on 45.9960% of the assessed value of the property, which is the taxable value of the property. This referendum would raise the District’s Debt Service Levy from $2.976 per $1,000 of assessed valuation of property to $3.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of approximately 88.45 cents. See the table below to see the impact of this increase in taxes this referendum would have on various values of property assuming no increase in assessed value of property from one year to the next.
If you want to know what the taxable value of your property is, you can:
The increase of $52.24 a year, or $1.01 a week, would be collected beginning with the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007.
Linn-Mar’s financial advisors and administrators have reviewed the operating budget impact of opening new schools, and with careful management of financial resources, the District will be able to manage the additional property. The renovations to the High School and Novak Elementary will increase operational efficiencies and eliminate some ongoing maintenance costs, as well.
Growth in the tax base spreads the tax over more people and reduces the amount levied on each individual property owner. It does not increase the revenue per student received by the school district from the state. An increase in the tax base does, however, increase the amount received in the PPEL funds. The anticipated increase in assessed valuation may cause the debt service levy to decrease from $3.86 if this referendum is approved by the voters. However, this growth in property tax base cannot be guaranteed.
There are only three options currently available to school districts for financing construction or repair. Districts can ask voters to approve:
1) an increase in the local sales tax (up to one cent).
2) a Physical Plant and Equipment Property Tax Levy (PPEL) which increases local property taxes.
3) a bond issue, which is only payable from a levy upon property taxes (increases local property tax).
· The Iowa legislature has always considered infrastructure to be a local responsibility. The one cent sales tax for schools requires a vote of all Linn County voters. To date, the voters of Linn County have not approved a one cent sales tax for schools, which means that funding option is not available to Linn County schools, which includes Linn-Mar.
· The District currently uses the PPEL revenue for repair and maintenance of its buildings and for purchase of school buses.
· A bond issue permits school districts to sell bonds to finance construction. The bonds are sold when needed to cover expenses with a payback over a period of years, usually 20 years. The size of projects required by Linn-Mar to meet the growth in student enrollment cannot be covered by PPEL funds. PPEL funding will be used to continue funding the maintenance needs of the District’s other schools and buildings.
How can Linn-Mar afford a $27.5
If passed, the plan is to sell the bonds over a three year period: $10 million the first year, $10 million the second year, and $7.5 million the third year. The projects would be paid for from the bond sales as the bills come due. The length of time for payback from each bond sale is 20 years.
The District’s current tax rate is $17.9931. The bond-related taxes still on the books are covered by the debt service levy, which is currently $2.97601. Recently the District refinanced two outstanding issues of bond debt to obtain more favorable interest rates which will save the District $818,000 over the remaining length of current debt; which leaves approximately $33.3 million in outstanding debt that will be paid off in the fiscal year ending 2021.
The District does not have an income surtax.
The District currently has the board-approved PPEL levy of 33 cents and a voter-approved levy of 67 cents, which was passed in September 2004 with a vote of 517 in favor and 100 against. By law, the District could ask the tax payers to approve an additional 67 cents.
The proposed bond issue for $27.5 million will raise the debt service levy from $2.97601 to $3.86, an increase of approximately 88 cents.
Developers are building in neighborhoods at each of the schools in the Linn-Mar district, which includes portions of Marion, Cedar Rapids, and Robins. New housing starts mean more children, thus generating a need for additional classrooms.In 2005, the City of Cedar Rapids issued building permits for 348 single family dwellings; the City of Marion issued 312 permits. The majority of the permits issued by the City of Marion are in the Linn-Mar District, while 25 of the Cedar Rapids-issued permits are in Linn-Mar.
Currently, several schools have run out of classroom space and have converted other areas of their building to classrooms. For example, Wilkins’ computer lab is now a kindergarten classroom; Westfield has remodeled two learning area spaces into classrooms for alternate kindergarten and fifth grade. Oak Ridge has partitioned off part of their library for TAG and reading classes and is using an art room as a classroom. Indian Creek, Bowman Woods, and Novak have larger class sizes in many grade levels because of neighborhood housing growth.
An increase in High School enrollment over the past four years has also required adjustments. Administrators have employed a number of solutions to resolve overcrowding so all students can complete their required courses.
High School renovation and addition: This project will provide more classrooms for the additional high school students, better circulation for students in the hallways, another cafeteria area for serving lunches for the increased number of students, more stable air quality across the building, and centralized services locations for students such as guidance and at-risk counseling and nurse support.
Two Elementary Schools: With the construction of 2 elementary schools, the first being on 50th Street in Marion and the second on Oak Ridge property, elementary attendance boundaries will be redrawn to redistribute students among the schools. This will result in more manageable class sizes and the return of areas that are being used as classrooms to their intended original use. An example would be Wilkins computer room which is now currently a kindergarten classroom.
Renovation of Novak Elementary: Novak, the District’s first building, was constructed in 1948. The windows need to be replaced; the electrical service modernized; plumbing and fixtures need to be upgraded; and the current heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems need to be revamped. These upgrades would improve the quality of the learning environment at Novak and keep this historical district building from deteriorating thus making it safe and useable as a school or for other purposes in the future.
First, it is the intention of the Board to bring the referendum to a vote at the earliest possible date it can, should the question not receive the required number of votes for passage. According to code, the next election can be held as soon as six months after the initial vote.
All of the needs met by the proposed projects are upgrades to facilities to provide continued quality education to the additional students who are moving into the district. At the elementary level, class sizes would continue to increase and more spaces in the elementary buildings would be repurposed for class space. The conversion of Oak Ridge to a middle school would be delayed. More middle school students would be assigned to Excelsior to ease class size and crowding at Oak Ridge. The enrollment at the High School is anticipated to reach 1800 students by the fall of 2008. Graduation requirements have already been increased for Linn-Mar High School Students so there would be limitations on availability of science classrooms. All programs are showing increased student enrollment so the class sizes become larger; elective courses may be offered in alternating years; or the number of elective classes offered may be limited, creating waiting lists. Performing groups, as they grow larger, may not be divided; thus limiting opportunities for students. The math classroom area’s climate control problems would not be addressed. Further, because the increased number of students means more guidance counselors, the guidance counselor offices would be placed wherever there was available space. Finally, because of the crowded conditions, incidents involving disciplinary action may increase.
The PPEL dollars available for building maintenance for all schools would have to be diverted to space conversion. Mechanical upgrades, renovations and preventative maintenance projects for the High School, Novak, Indian Creek, Bowman Woods, and Wilkins that are needed because of their age, will be delayed. Roof repair and replacement would also be delayed. The District’s newer buildings, Excelsior, Westfield, and Oak Ridge would receive minimal attention because services would be provided based on most critical need rather than general upkeep.Storage and warehousing problems would escalate for Food Service, increasing the present costs of storing food off site. Transportation would likely be affected because of the diminished availability of dollars to purchase new buses to replace older buses.