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Residents of two southeast Iowa school districts will go to the polls on Tuesday, April 3rd to determine whether the districts should be allowed to borrow millions of dollars for new construction or facility upgrades.The Fort Madison School District says it needs $30-million to build a new elementary school and new high school baseball and softball fields.The Central Lee School District is seeking $9.8-million to help pay for enhanced security at its high school and K-8 building, a new high school gymnasium, several new classrooms and improved parking.Early voting is underway ahead of the April 3rd Elections.

Fort Madison School Ballot Recount Scheduled


The Lee County Auditor's Office has scheduled a recount of the ballots cast in the Fort Madison School District's April 3 Bond Referendum. The recount will take place at 8:30 a.m. Monday, April 23 at the Lee County Jail.

The school district asked voters for permission to borrow $30 million. The money would have been used to build a new elementary school (replacing Lincoln and Richardson Elementary schools) and to build new high school baseball and softball fields.

A majority of voters (more than 59%) supported the bond issue but it fell a few dozen votes shy of reaching the 60% threshold required by Iowa law for a bond referendum. The late addition of 10 yes votes from absentee and provisional ballots was not enough to reach 60%.

Lee County Elections Coordinator Nikki Sugars said the county auditor’s office received a petition seeking the recount after the votes became official. She said that prompted the naming of a three-member recount board.

  • Fort Madison School Board member Carol Ross will represent the petitioners
  • Former Lee County Supervisor Janet Fife-LaFrenz will represent the auditor’s office.
  • Ross and Fife-LaFrenz chose Marge Wilhelm as the third member. Sugars said Wilhelm is in charge of the board that counts/reviews absentee ballots for the county.

“Basically what they are going to do is go through and put the ballots back in the same machines and have a recount,” said Sugars. “They count those ballots over to make sure they get the same results. I don’t anticipate they will get anything different.”
Sugars said she’s confident in the results because the voting machines did not produce any malfunctions or errors on Election Day. The recount board had the opportunity to count the ballots by hand but instead chose to use machines.

This was the third time in the past 18 months that residents of the Fort Madison School District rejected borrowing millions of dollars for the new elementary school/new athletic fields. The percentage of yes votes, though, has increased each time. The school district must now wait at least six months before it could place the question on the ballot a fourth time.

Sugars expects the recount will take a few hours to complete. She said the county would be on the hook for the cost of the recount, but she does not anticipate any expenses related to the process.

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