Riverside bond issue comes before the voters again


May 9th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Riverside School District hope another try will do the trick when it comes to passing a bond issued for new district facilities. Superintendent Jim Sutton told KJAN News the district’s Board of Education have accepted a petition calling for a June 25th Special Election which if approved, would result in the construction of a new, 7th-12th grade facility.  Sutton says voters will decide on a $15.1 million bond issue that leaves the tax levy the same as before, at $2.70 per thousand dollars of valuation. He says “Together with the savings we have and borrowing against our remaining sales tax, we’re looking at about a $23-million project.”

If approved, the new facility would be located near the intersection of Highways 6 and 59, south of Oakland, and it would not require the closure of all three of the district’s buildings. It would also eliminate the idea of a Pre-k through 12th grade building, and include an auditorium, a geothermal heating system, athletic complex and track, which remain on the district’s priority list. He said those items have simply been moved up on the priority list. Sutton says until the last election in Dec. 2012, the district’s thoughts were to include the extras if the money was available, but by trimming down the project to a 7-12 building, they were able to “Maintain a couple of buildings that are still usable in the district,” and “Assure voters that we would have geothermal in that project, and the athletic complex.” Previously, those items were on the wish list as more money became available.

Previous bond issue attempts for a new K-12 facility were rejected in April, 2011 and February 2012. The last attempt to pass the measure came up short of the 60-percent supermajority needed for the measure to pass, at 59.2-percent. Sutton says that’s because there were a couple of factors working against them. One was an Iowa Western Community College bond issue that was being voted on during the same day, which he says when added to the Oakland District’s bond vote, “Made it look a pretty hefty proposal.” The other issue, was the fact there was only one polling place in the County, which he says affected the turnout.

Sutton says they’re hoping they don’t have to share the ballot this time around, and that the County will be agreeable to having polling places in each one of the district’s communities, as has been the case in the past. An informal meeting on the latest bond measure is expected to take place June 11th, just weeks before the scheduled Special Election. Additional details on the locations and times for the meeting will be announced in the district’s newsletter and a mailer that will be sent out to the district’s patrons.

Sutton says the main thing they have to overcome this time around, is “Voter Apathy.”  He says with the tax rate having fallen by as much as 80-cents over the past year , it’s a “Wise time to spending this money for a new building, it really is.”