Vote on new MFL MarMac fieldhouse could come as early as September

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Residents of the MFL MarMac Community School District could vote as soon as September on the construction of a new fieldhouse at the Monona Center. The second Tuesday of that month is one of three options available for the district to hold an election over the next year; the other two are the November general election and the first Tuesday in March 2020.

“I’m just throwing it out there,” said superintendent Dale Crozier at the May 13 school board meeting. “I talked to our architect firm and they’re ready to go.”

“We know it’s feasible, and we know we have enough room. We have a general plan,” Crozier added. “You know where the entrance is going to be, over by the wrestling room, on the south side. You know the concession stand and stuff is going to be in there, then you go in and have your two gyms and how it’s going to connect.”

The district first considered adding a fieldhouse several years ago, after hearing concerns from coaches and parents that there was a lack of practice and competition space between all the schools. A committee, including several members of the school board, has since toured other districts to gather ideas for a potential structure. So far, said Crozier, preliminary planning has cost MFL MarMac under $10,000.

“I’ll go ahead soon and get all of our details on our plans out on how it’s going to look,” Crozier told the board. “The question is, do we want to go to our voters in September or do we want to go in March? We could go November too, but I would recommend against that.”

Some of the school board members wondered if September was too soon.

“September feels like blindsiding,” said Jonathon Moser.

“If we go too fast, will people start questioning?” asked president Gina Roys. “I think education is key if we want to do it.”

Crozier admitted this election will be different than the district’s recent physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) vote, which overwhelmingly passed.

“You have to take this out and campaign for it and give time for people to let it absorb,” he said. “We know all the people who want it—we know there’s a lot of people who want it. The people who will oppose us, we haven’t met them yet.”

Board member Collin Stubbs said the district has done its due diligence so far, but felt a bit more work needs to be completed before socializing the concept further and putting it in front of the public.

“We’ll know by the end of June if we’re in a position to move forward,” he commented. “Then we can discuss pursuing September or November. And if we just aren’t comfortable, then we go to March.”

If the district chooses to hold a special election in September, the county auditor would have to be notified by July, Crozier said.

He hopes the recently-passed PPEL, as well as the local option sales tax, are two things MFL MarMac can use to its advantage. This past legislative session, SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education), the one-cent local option sales tax, was passed until 2051.

“The big thing is we can bond against that, so I’m going to get some numbers in the next month and try to figure out exactly how much we can generate for the fieldhouse project,” Crozier stated. “We could use some of our cash, and we could bond against that future sales tax revenue that we’re going to get, and we could actually have a bond referendum that would ask for less.”

He said, hypothetically, if the district needed $8 million for a project, it could get $3 million from other sources.

“If we had $1 million of our own and took $2 million out of SAVE, we’d only have to bond $5 million,” he explained. “I’ll have some more hard data on that shortly.”

Other legislative impacts

In addition to the extension of SAVE, Crozier said there were several other pieces of legislation that could impact the district. One will require all schools to offer a financial literacy course. High school principal Larry Meyer said the school already offers a class like this, so is ahead of the game.

School districts will now be allowed to buy vans to transport students. Crozier said this could be an option for the district, but still prefers the sturdiness of suburbans.

Finally, the district can once again pay for safety equipment out of its general fund “without going through a bunch of hoops,” Crozier described.

Update on PPEL and SAVE revenue and expenses plan

Crozier provided the board with an updated PPEL and SAVE revenue and expenses plan. Expenses for the 2019-2020 fiscal year total $384,400, and include the technology lease for school computers, other technology and surveillance upgrades, a transportation lease and bus purchase, mower upgrade, roofing, AC units, blacktop and cement work, high school girl’s bathroom updates and completion of ballfield updates.

Other possible projects include LED lighting, resurfacing of the track, new visitor’s side bleachers in the gym and an elementary addition. This last project could also be combined with the fieldhouse project, Crozier noted. These additional items total $672,000.

Looking into concurrent courses

In the coming months, Crozier said he plans to take a deeper look at the concurrent college course offerings at the high school.

“I want to make sure we have proper checks and balances,” he added. “If you look at the bills, there was a $29,000 bill to NICC this pay period. You do that a couple times a year, so we’ve got about $60,000 going out. We’ve got to be careful that we are prudent.”

In addition to establishing GPA and age guidelines to take the courses, Crozier suggested having students pay for the textbooks they use in the classes. This would tie them to the class, he explained, so they couldn’t decide to drop the class after a few weeks and use the remaining time in the semester as a study hall. He added that many other districts in the area do it this way.

“It’s going to be a cost, but it’s still a really good deal. It’s cheaper than tuition at Iowa State,” Crozier said. “It will be like a new tax, a new fee.”

He didn’t believe the fee would financially prevent anyone from taking a class. If it did, they could qualify for a fee waiver.

School calendar change

Due to the success of beginning the school day five minutes earlier the last several months, to make up snow days, Crozier said the district will permanently stick with the earlier time next year. The district will gain two days by doing this.

The school had also added time at the end of the day for several months, but Crozier said that will not continue.

Staff changes

The board approved the resignation of Rene Moore, special education teacher at the high school, and approved a contract for Amber Hendricks to teach elementary special education. 

Middle school guidance counselor Marnie Carlson will transfer to the elementary next year and will also share time with Postville, just as retiring counselor Kurt Gaylor has done. Eliza Philpott, who’s been at the McGregor Center, will transfer to the high school  to teach special education and will remain a shared curriculum director with Central.

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