Grand Meadow schools propose $3 million bond for new gym

Grand Meadow Public Schools is going to the voters once again to help build a new physical education center for the district.

Grand Meadow voters will decide whether to approve a $3 million bond referendum on Nov. 4 to build a new gymnasium, which would help give the district a little more breathing room during the school day.

“We’re very excited, we’re optimistic,” Principal Paul Besel said. “It’s going to be a really great thing if this moves forward.”

The bond would mean homeowners with homes worth about $100,000 could see an estimated increase of $74.34 to their property taxes, while agricultural homesteads with about 80 acres of land — worth about $717,500 — could have an estimated increase of $409.22 to property taxes. The proposed bond is accelerated to be paid off in seven years, rather than the standard 15- to 20-year capital bond project.

District voters turned down a $13.7 million referendum this past March that if passed would have allowed the school to build a new gymnasium as well as more classrooms. Because the district is still paying for the current school buildings, Besel said the impact was too large to do both the gymnasium and the classrooms.

“I think it was too much of an impact on the taxpayers,” Besel said.

Yet despite the impact the new proposal will make, Besel said he thinks the community does see the need for more space.

Grand Meadow hopes to build the new gym for about $6 million, but school officials are only asking for taxpayers to help with $3 million. In late spring, early summer of 2014, anonymous local benefactors donated $3 million toward the gymnasium project.

“We were just shocked and amazed and extremely grateful, and it helped us move forward to where we’re at now,” Besel said.

There were two stipulations with the donation: if there was to be a building referendum and more than $3 million was needed, the referendum could not exceed the donation. In addition, a walking track from the original plan needed to stay in the plans.

“After that we could use the money as we saw fit toward our project,” Besel said.

The district hopes to raise money to get additional classrooms at about the same time as the gym. School officials have plans to fundraise some of the money, use money from the district’s reserve funds, look into the Education Foundation for help purchasing items such as desks, technology and cabinets, and using the construction contingency fund.

Besel said the construction and some internal classroom space shifting would hopefully create about four extra classrooms to use for elementary student growth. The district decided to finish the gymnasium project first because of the donation, but Besel said the extra space is needed, as they offer physical education classes for students in kindergarten through 10th grade.

“We’re having to shuffle schedules around, the gym is having to get split up with our curtain, and we have 75-100 kids in the gym at one time,” Besel said.

The school also uses the gym for athletic events and events such as grandparents day, where they pull in extra seating and it is a tight fit for everyone to get into the one space.

Besel is optimistic that the referendum will pass.

“We’ve been receiving a lot of positive comments from various people in the community,” he said. “They’ll just have to make a decision about whether or not it’s something they can afford. I’m feeling optimistic that it will pass.”

If the referendum passes, district officials hope to finish the gym in the fall of 2015.

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