Highland

Highland Community School District voters will go to the polls Sept. 10 to decide a $3.7 million bond issue.

If approved, the bond would pay for an upgrade to the heating and air conditioning system at the middle and high school plus the replacement of windows at the school. There will be some remodeling at the high school to add storage space for the performing arts program and get a freezer moved inside the kitchen. At the elementary school, the playground will be updated and made accessible for all students. 

The list sounds long, but the amount requested is less than other similar size districts in the area have asked voters to fund.

Highland district officials and school board members worked over several months to keep the bond asking price low so that the overall tax rate in the district stayed level, enabling the district to pay off the bond in less than 10 years.

The measure going to voters calls for the bonds to be paid off in 2029. The first payments would be made in 2021 if the bonds were sold in 2020.

District Business Manager Sue Rich said the current tax rate in the district is $13.09 per thousand dollars of taxable value on a property.

She said that the estimate with the bond payments is a tax rate of $3.15 per year, but that could vary up or down from year to year. Last year, the tax rate was $3.19 per thousand dollars of taxable value. 

All the numbers Rich provided are estimates based on projections by the district’s financial consultant Piper-Jaffrey. Interest rates, which determine the actual payoff amount each year, will be set when the bonds are sold.

Maintaining an even rate would be possible because the valuation of property in the district rises each year.

The district currently does not have any general obligation bond debt. The district has three payments left on a loan that was issued for improvements to athletic facilities. Those payments come out of the district’s physical plant and equipment levy.

Superintendent Ken Crawford said, if voters approve the bond issue, the bonds would not be sold until after bids come in, closer to the time when construction would start.

Getting those bids in yet this year is the reason the district is holding a special election in September instead of waiting until the November general election. If bids are approved before the end of the year, construction could start in early spring.

If approved by voters, the bond issue would fund:

• Replacing and improving the heating and air conditioning system. $2.175 million

• Replacing high school windows with energy efficient windows. $42,745.

• Constructing, furnishing and equipping an addition the fine arts area of the high school building. This would include related remodeling to the existing building. $177,650.

• Upgrading and equipping the playground at the elementary school. $376,000.

“This is about sustaining growth,” Crawford said. “This makes for a better learning environment for our kids.”

For approval, the district will need to get approval from more than 60% of voters in the election. That is not easy.

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