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Bond issue firm at 25.5 million

Language for Sept. 9 ballot on June 26 agenda

SOLON– The Solon school board is expected to finalize a Sept. 9 date for a $25.5 million bond issue referendum later this month.
According to Solon Superintendent Sam Miller, the district is planning a special board meeting Thursday, June 26, to accept a petition calling for a bond issue and to consider a resolution calling for a special election.
It’s a big step for the district, which has been discussing potential facility needs for months.
The action would officially put the gears in motion for a $25.5 million bond issue to fund the construction of a new middle school, a performing arts center, and modest classroom additions at the high school.
Board members have stepped up discussions in the last week, holding a work session May 28 to meet again with the district’s financial advisor and its architects, and then using most of the regular session Monday, June 2, to interview two firms offering construction manager services for the potential projects.

The majority of the May 28 work session was spent discussing a variety of scenarios with bonding consultant Travis Squires of Piper Jaffray in Des Moines.
Squires presented the board members with projections for the district’s bonding capacity with assumptions made based on interest rates, taxable valuation and enrollment.
A similar presentation was made to the board in November 2013. At that time, Piper Jaffray estimated that even with only half of the historical growth the district has experienced, the Solon school system could absorb payments for a debt of approximately $25 million over a 20-year bond duration.
Despite the appealing financial forecast, board members declined to look at a higher ceiling for the bond issue.
“They could have easily done $27 million,” Miller said, “but they stayed conservative.”
During the discussions, district officials have deliberated the potential use of SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) funds to either backfill bond payments if needed, or as a source down the road for the creation of a fourth attendance center.
Miller said the district’s SAVE monies, generated by a statewide one-cent sales tax, are committed to other projects for several more years, but about $11 million would be available to bond against after 2018.

Also present at the May 28 meeting were representatives of Struxture Architects, the Waterloo firm that has been assisting the district with conceptual designs.
Struxture staff have been tweaking the plans, Miller said, and are very close to keeping the projects within the projected $25.5 million budget. “They think they can get where they need to be,” Miller noted.
The district has targeted the construction of an approximately 75,000 square foot, two-story middle school on the 11 acres recently purchased on Racine Avenue immediately west of the high school; a 900-seat performing arts center attached to the east side of the high school; and added classroom space for visual arts at the high school (part of the auditorium structure).

At the June 2 regular meeting, board members interviewed representatives from two firms interested in overseeing the possible projects.
Story Construction of Ames and Larson Construction of Independence are being considered to serve as construction managers, and staff from each company spent about a half-hour discussing their services and associated costs.
The board is expected to continue its consideration of construction manager services at the June 26 special meeting, where the ballot language for the bond issue will be reviewed and approved.
Miller said there will likely be two questions placed before voters if the special election is held– one for the $25.5 million bond issue and one for a 10-year renewal of the current $1.34 Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) set to expire in 2016.