Mid-Prairie puts bond issue on March 1 ballot


            The Mid-Prairie Community School District is one step closer to seeing its $37.6 million facility plan become a reality. On Monday, Jan. 10, the school board unanimously passed a resolution to put the bond issue on the March 1 ballot.

            The resolution orders an election on the issuance of $26.3 million general obligation bonds and comes after the school board was presented with the public petition that amassed almost 500 signatures, well above the 272 needed.

            The district initially thought it needed a minimum of 725 signatures but was informed by the county auditor that the threshold is calculated based on the number of voters in the last election, not the number of votes cast. While there were 2,900 individual votes cast in the Nov. 2, 2021, school board election, there were only 1,085 voters. The district needed signatures equal to 25% of votes cast in the last election, which it greatly exceeded. As a result, the school board was presented with the petition showing the public’s interest in seeing the bond issue on the ballot in March.

            The resolution also raised the maximum debt service levy from $2.70 to $4.05 per thousand dollars of assessed value. This figure is only the maximum amount of debt the district can take on and does not mean it will levy the full $4.05. It is estimated that the $26.3 million bond issue, if the referendum passes, would raise the debt levy by 60 cents to $3.30 per thousand.

            “Currently in the state of Iowa, 25%, or 82 districts, have a $4.05 limit,” said businesses manager Jeff Swartzentruber. “There are 19 districts that are between $2.75 and $3.99, which makes up 6%. And then there are 226 districts, or 69%, that are at $2.70.

            Swartzentruber said other local districts that currently have a maximum debt service levy of $4.05 include Clear Creek Amana, College Community, English Valleys, Lin Marr, Solon, WACO and Wilton. Monticello, also in the River Valley Conference, is at $3.95.

            The board discussed whether to set the debt service levy lower than $4.05 in order to not confuse or dissuade the public from voting for the referendum.

            “If you set it to $4.05, you never have to come back and do anything after that, it would be set there. It doesn’t mean you have to use $4.05,” board president Jeremy Pickard said. “But the other thought is that if you push it out there at $4.05, are people going to look at that, assume we’re automatically going to go to $4.05 and vote no for it?”

            “Do you set it at $3.30 and then you can never ask for any more — you have to go vote again… but if you automatically went to the $4.05, you never have to go back and ask again,” Pickard said.

            The board agreed that the district will have to educate the public about what the $4.05 maximum debt service levy means and how the district only plans to raise the debt levy by 60 cents to $3.30 per thousand dollars of assessed value.

            Mid-Prairie’s last bond election in 2014 passed with 74% approval while only requiring 60% plus one vote.  The assessed value was raised by $0.60 to the $2.70 as a result of the 2014 vote.  The bonds issued at that time raised $10,640,000.

            Pickard extended thanks on behalf of the board to the numerous public and community groups that helped collect the signatures needed for the petition, including the athletic boosters, fine arts boosters and other student groups.

            “A lot of hard work came from a lot of different folks to collect those [signatures] and get that taken care of,” Pickard said. “We appreciate all the effort folks went through to do that.”


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