Proposed Easton Valley Fieldhouse Project: Frequently Asked Questions
What are the prioritized extracurricular needs in our school district?
We need more space and infrastructure to accommodate our needs. We currently have no track for our track and field program. Our track and cross country athletes run in our school hallways, run on city streets, and utilize community parks for limited practices. We also have limited gym space to accommodate our school extracurricular and community needs. Our programs such as junior high sports, high school sports, performing arts, band, and choir all compete for limited gym time. This leaves little gym time for community use, making it extremely difficult for youth teams to schedule time in our gyms, especially in the winter months. We also need to update and replace the bleachers and spectator seating areas on our football field.
What solutions have been considered?
Two options emerged as the most viable solutions. Option one included constructing a new gym and adding an outdoor track that would include football field upgrades. The other option can best be described as a fieldhouse, which would include an indoor track, multiple courts for different sports, and other spaces to best serve our school and community. We also see the potential of purchasing portable, low rise bleachers for events in the field house that would also be utilized for football spectators during the fall sports season. The initial consensus when comparing the two options is that the field house option meets significantly more of our needs for approximately $2 million more dollars than the first gym/track option we explored.
Is constructing a fieldhouse attainable?
Yes. The most critical factor is funding. With the passage of a bond referendum, allowing our district to levy for up to $4.05 per $1,000 of property value, we would be able to generate enough revenue to construct a fieldhouse. The total amount available would be determined by interest rates, property valuations, borrowing capacity, and a few other key factors. In the instance that we could not generate the $15 million we would explore several options which would include downsizing the overall scope of the project, seeking donations from private partners, or completing the project in phases.
Would passing this bond referendum significantly raise property taxes?
No. It is very important to recognize that we already have the authority to levy for the additional $2.70 per $1,000 of property valuation. Increasing the levy to $4.05 is adding $1.35 to our current levy, not adding another $4.05. In addition to this fact, we remain committed to keeping our property tax rate under the $15 per $1,000 levy rate, as previously promised, even with the authority to levy up to $4.05.
As a result, property owners would see little to no increase in property taxes as compared to the authority we already have to levy for taxes in our school district. Over one-third of all school districts in the state of Iowa have the authority to levy up to the additional $4.05 amount, so it is common to allow residents to vote on something like this to further invest in their schools’ infrastructure.
Can’t we get by with our existing gyms and infrastructure?
Not if we want to best serve our kids and community. When we compare our gyms to all the other schools in our athletic conference we have the smallest gyms and the fewest number of gyms and practice spaces. If we do not add to our existing gym space we will be required to invest in replacing old gym floors and bleachers that we estimate to cost at least $500,000.
Why does it feel like all of this is transpiring so quickly?
We have been exploring these options for nearly a year and have been envisioning the possibility of pursuing this more seriously next spring. Unfortunately, legislation changed this summer reducing the number of opportunities communities have to vote on a school bond referendum. Past practice provided four quarterly opportunities per calendar year when a community could vote to pass a bond. The new legislation reduced the opportunity to vote to once per year during the normal election cycle in the month of November. That forced us to quickly reevaluate our options, which included either allowing our community to vote on this in November 2023 or waiting over a year and then voting on it in conjunction with the presidential election in 2024. Consensus of our school board has been to allow our community to vote on this option this current year.
Does this expedited timeline limit the ability of our community to provide input on the plans for this facility?
No. Quite the opposite. A vote this November is simply to allocate the financial resources that would allow our community to construct a facility of this magnitude. The work that Easton Valley school district leaders have been doing up to this point has been to imagine possible solutions, develop conceptual designs, and determine the feasibility of a fieldhouse project.
Now that we know that a project of this scope is realistically attainable we want to allow our community to weigh in on whether or not they would support the means it will take to fund it. Passage of a bond would be followed by many additional community meetings to gather detailed input from residents in order to finalize the plans for the proposed fieldhouse.
Do we have the means to fund this project on top of all other district operations?
Without a doubt. A fieldhouse project would be funded through a combination of G.O. bond proceeds, donations, grants, and other partnerships. This is a completely different funding stream, separate from our general fund for educational needs and our PPEL/1% funds that we budget for facility, technology, and transportation needs. Our budgeted PPEL/1% funds would remain committed toward meeting our current and future infrastructure needs in our district.
The construction of a fieldhouse would happen in conjunction with our other facility improvement plans that we are currently developing and implementing. It is also important to note that we are committed to leaving future PPEL/1% funding streams untouched to ensure that our future school and community leaders have the financial resources to maintain current infrastructure and invest in future areas of need.
Would an investment of this size detract from our ability to meet our educational needs?
Certainly not. Making a significant investment in our extracurricular facilities has been a part of our long range plans since Easton Valley was formed. In the last decade we have prioritized our educational needs by investing heavily in both our elementary and our JH/HS buildings. With the support of our community we have significantly invested in our learning spaces and are now in a position to take the next step as a community school system. Keep in mind that an extracurricular facility such as a fieldhouse would also be a huge asset to support physical education and music education programs. The extracurricular opportunities this facility would support will also provide critical opportunities for our students to learn and develop life skills.
It is also our vision that constructing a fieldhouse with new locker rooms would allow us the ability to renovate and repurpose existing locker rooms in both of our schools, as needed. This potential would help us respond to an influx of students and/or the need to host new programs in either of our school buildings without the need for costly new construction.
In what ways would a fieldhouse benefit our students, schools, families, and community?
The list of benefits is incredibly long. Based on early conversations with our school board and other key stakeholders we have identified the following list as a starting point to consider
Offer new, improved, and expanded space to serve all school athletic programs
The indoor facility would open up brand new opportunities for students and community to utilize during the colder winter months in Iowa
Potential to host multiple indoor track meets each year
New space available for ALL community members, young and old, to utilize year round
Frees up space in our schools to repurpose areas for new learning opportunities
Allows us to dedicate our existing JH/HS gym to be converted into area focused on the needs of performing arts, band, chorus, and other non-athletic interests
Multiple courts would allow us to host youth and school sports tournaments
Eliminates the need to invest nearly a half million dollars to improve our old and undersized gyms
Generate additional revenue by renting out the space to surrounding schools and other entities
Benefits students and families by allowing us to hold sports and performing arts practices in a more efficient manner (reduces the need for early morning or late night practices)
Offer state of the art facilities that are unmatched in our area and throughout the state
What are the key dates and timelines associated with this process?
We are currently in the process of scheduling community-wide meetings. We are planning to host at least one meeting (3 total) that will be held in the towns of Sabula, Preston, and Miles. We are also in the process of developing informational materials that will be distributed to educate all Easton Valley residents about the details of this proposed project.
When Easton Valley voters go to the polls on November 7, 2023 they will see two questions associated with this project on the ballot. One question will ask if the voter supports Easton Valley having the authority to bond up to $12 million dollars to fund a field house project. The second question will ask for permission to levy up to the $4.05 amount, which in reality, is asking for the authority to levy an additional $1.35 beyond the $2.70 levy that was already approved several years ago. Both questions would require 60% approval to pass.
If both questions receive 60% or more support we will spend considerable time re-engaging school staff and community members to gather detailed input on the scope and configuration of the project. This input will allow us to finalize the plans for the field house so that we can begin requesting bid proposals from contractors who will construct the field house. If we should reach this stage of the process, we are told that the facility could be built in just over one year’s time.