Letter to the editor: Tuesday, support plan for elementary schools that reflects input

The Ames Chamber of Commerce and Ames Economic Development Commission boards of directors have reviewed the upcoming ballot issue for the Ames Community School District. We are pleased to pledge our support to Tuesday’s measure that will be placed in front of the voters.

Ames elementary schools were on the cutting edge when they were built 40 to 60 years ago. The newest elementary school was built in 1972. Today, these buildings need to be upgraded. Our children go to schools where walls are cracking, basements are leaking and mechanical systems are failing. The buildings are worn out. Students occupy spaces not designed for today’s collaborative learning environments, special programs, security demands, safety codes and technology requirements.

Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Development Commission did not support the plan that was put forth last September. The current plan is different in that it reflects the input of the district administration, faculty and the general public, based upon many hours of study conducted by the Citizen’s Committee that was appointed by the school board. This plan calls for the rebuilding of Meeker and Fellows Elementary Schools on their current sites, constructing a new school on Miller Avenue to replace Edwards Elementary School and the renovation of Sawyer and Mitchell Elementary Schools. This plan gives Ames elementary schools the flexible space that fluctuating enrollment and evolving learning environments demand.

What may be the best part of the upcoming ballot question is that the plan provides an opportunity to modernize the elementary buildings and the Ames school district can issue debt for the $55,000,000 with a construction plan that can be executed in three-and-a-half years. With accelerated construction schedules, the district can accomplish this without raising the tax levy rate this year.

This means our property tax level will hold steady. The current rate is $14.52 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. The tax rate will not increase because the current debt of the district will be paid this fiscal year. Taxable property valuations have increased 2.8 percent and sales tax revenues are available to future boards of education to help offset the debt cost and keep tax levy rates steady in later years if they so choose. We also recognize that these funds (sales tax revenues) can only be used for construction, remodeling and property tax reduction and cannot be used for operating expenses.

The choice is clear. April 3 is an opportunity for the citizens of the Ames Community School District to underwrite the modernization of our elementary schools for a plan that will serve the children of our community long into the future. Exercise your right to vote, and vote “Yes” on April 3.