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Special Election Possible for West Burlington Schools

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West Burlington residents have a chance to let their voices be heard when it comes to a plan to renovate several school buildings.

Superintendent Dave Schmitt said it will cost roughly $6.5-million to add classroom space to the high school and the elementary school, to improve several kitchens and to upgrade a media center.

He said the district cannot pay for the work without borrowing money, so public input is crucial to the plan.

"(The school board) is asking the taxpayers to increase their property taxes, so it is only right we get their permission to do so."

Schmitt said the school board wants to receive a petition from residents to call for a special election on the issuance of bonds.  He said such a petition with at least 200 signatures would be needed by Monday night.

Schmitt said the petition would need to be filed with the Des Moines County Auditor by Oct. 17.

He said the current property tax rate of $18.83 is much lower than the average rate for West Burlington.  So he said an increase to $20.64, if the district borrows the money, would not be a huge shock to residents.

"This fiscal year, the board was gracious enough to give some nice tax relief to the voters to the tune of $1.98," said Schmitt.  "When (the school board) approved that in April, it was clear we were providing some tax relief but we had serious considerations about looking at a bond issue, which would move our levee again in the 2015/2016 school year."

Schmitt said the district would like to hold the special election on Tues., Dec. 2.  He said if the bond issue is approved, construction could get underway in the spring with completion slated for the end of 2015.

"And (we would) move into our new facilities in the second semester of next year."

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.