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East Mills Proposal Calls For K-12 School In Malvern

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District Residents Will Be Asked To Approve PPEL, Bond Issue

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

MALVERN - The East Mills School Board plans to keep its footprint firmly in Malvern.
The board voted unanimously to renovate the current middle-high school building in Malvern into a consolidated kindergarten through 12th grade school among its short- and long-term plans approved at a special board meeting Tuesday, June 17.

The board’s decision doesn’t come without risk or cost for the cash-strapped and geographically-divided school district. The district’s plans call for more than $15 million in new revenue from general obligation bonds and a physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL). Both of those revenue streams call for voter support.

The decision also results in the immediate closing of Chantry Elementary in Malvern. The district’s 273 kindergarten through sixth-grade students will be consolidated at Nishna Valley for the 2014-2015 school year. Grades 7-12 – about 215 students – will remain at East Mills Middle-High School in Malvern.

Nearly 75 community members showed up for last Tuesday’s meeting in the East Mills gymnasium.

On June 9, the board listened to the strategic planning committee’s recommendations. The board appointed committee made strong recommendations from the findings of Iowa Schoolhouse, the district’s consultants, for the short-term that would sustain the district for 3-5 years while it sorts out its financial issues with an eye toward the long-term goal of constructing a one-building school district.

As part of that short-term plan, the board voted to go with a plan that will have major impacts on this upcoming school year, scheduled to begin Aug. 14.  In addition to having all pre-school through sixth grade students schooling at Nishna Valley and seventh through 12th-grade students remaining in Malvern, the district’s annex property on Main Street as well as Chantry will be shuttered. The district has the intention of re-purposing the former school building as potentially a community center or for sale as possible residential development. According to documents provided by the district, the changes will save the district an estimated $80,250 annually.

With this short-term plan comes more than $30,000 in infrastructure costs that would immediately need to be addressed for the upcoming school year, said Glenwood Superintendent Paul Croghan.

The district’s long-term plan calls for a renovation to the current middle-high school and a elementary wing addition. To pay for the project the board plans to pursue two voter-approved initiative: a 10-year PPEL and a general obligation bond issue. The district plans to put the PPEL before voters this fall. With approval of voters, the $1.34 levy for 10 years will raise approximately $395,000 annually or nearly $4 million over 10 years. With a revenue bond based on that levy, the district could raise $2.9 million to assist in technology and major repairs to the school.

A general obligation bond issue would likely not see the voting booth until the spring of 2015.

A 60-percent voter approval would be required for passage.

The bond would include a maximum $2.70 levy for 20 years.  A $2.70 levy would raise commercial property taxes valued at $100,000 by about $270 annually and $117.94 per $100,000 of valuation on residential property with a homestead credit. In all, a $2.70 levy could raise more than $11 million for the district’s improvements and would include $100,000 annually for bus replacement.

Renovations to the current middle-high school building are expected to cost between $4 and $5 million with the elementary addition estimated at $4.8 million.

If a general obligation bond were to be passed next spring, the newly renovated East Mills K-12 school could open by the fall of 2017.

If a general obligation referendum were to fail, the board said it would consider Option H. That plan would consolidate grades K-12 at Nishna Valley long term and result in the disposal of the Chantry, East Mills Middle-High School and the annex properties in Malvern. The cost to renovate Nishna Valley as a K-12 school comes with a $3 million price tag and would require the passage of a PPEL revenue bond of $1.34 but not a general obligation bond issue.