Montezuma Heads To The Polls Once Again To Vote On A School Bond Measure

Montezuma Community School- High School portion of their building complex

Montezuma, Iowa – The town of Montezuma is once again gearing up for a special election concerning school bonds. The school district last expanded back in 1989, and has recently added an updated bus barn to the facility.

A quick stop by Ron’s Barber Shop on the square in downtown Montezuma is the quickest way to find out thoughts and opinions about the 3rd bond measure since September of 2010.

It wasn’t all that difficult to get the conversation going, as is normally the case in most barber shops.

“You gotta have a good school to have a good community” was Ron Hensel’s thoughts, who owns and runs Ron’s Barber Shop.

“How much more is that going to cost us though” Dave Slaven responded, a customer waiting in line for his turn in the chair.

Ron said in reply, “You’ll get it back when you sell your house; it will add to the value of your home.”  With Dave looking over at Ron, while he trims another customers hair, Dave answers,  “I’m not convinced of that.”

Ron went on to say, “I feel if you don’t have a school here, it’s going to really hurt the whole community”. Those fears are easily understandable when you look at the steady decline of small towns in Iowa. Ron referenced towns such as Barnes City, Deep River, and many other towns in the area that continue to decline until they end up unincorporated like neighboring town Searsboro has recently.

Ron also thought the economy could be playing a factor in people’s thoughts about adding additional taxes to what could be already stretched budgets.

Slaven, who lives at “The Lake” as it’s called in town, “Lake Ponderosa winds up supporting the biggest share of the tax base because of the houses and property out here and they are jacking our values up and taxes go along with it,” saying there is no way you could sell your house for what they are appraised.

The 1929 building is still an active portion of the current school system, but in need of updates according to the bond proposal

The first attempt was an 11.5 million dollar renovation for the buildings, but ran into a buzz-saw of opposition. At that time I wrote, “Many wonder how the school building could be in such ill repair. Why have what seems to be basic maintenance repairs not been performed in order to keep the school buildings in a better condition. Questions of the school board, [and] if someone on the board stands to profit from the building of the school. Others seem to think they see the writing on the wall of consolidation in the future anyway, why put all this money into something that is doomed to fail.”

The bond measure was voted down by the residents with only 40% of residents voting in favor of the proposal.

With many major repairs facing the school, voters were once again back at the ballot box over a new measure. This vote was for $8.5 million dollars in General Obligation Bonds to help pay for a school renovation project. The vote was once again defeated, but by a smaller margin than before, with 56% voting in favor.

We had spoken with Ed Long on the defeat of the bond back in April. Ed is the owner of Star Lanes in Montezuma. “That’s unfortunate. I want to see the school stay here. I want to keep my bowling alley in this town.” Long also went on to say, “No school means no growth. It means decline in my opinion. You look at What Cheer, Deep River, Malcom; all those places declined because they don’t have schools.”

For a third time, the residents of Montezuma will be going to the polls on February 7th, 2012. Starting at 7 am they will be once again looking for the communities opinion.

The Poweshiek County Courthouse where votes from the 3rd attempt at school bonds will be added up the night of February 7th, 2012

Voting will be at the Montezuma Community Library, and a 60% in favor of the nearly 6.7 million dollar measure will allow the school to issue General Obligation Bonds as it states on the ballot, “to defray the costs of reconstructing, repairing, improving, furnishing, and remodeling existing school buildings”.

David Versteeg, Superintendent for Montezuma Community Schools, said in an interview recently that, “We think it’s time to update” in regards to the addition of cooling to the buildings.  “With the new technology, we can actually heat and cool the building for what it costs us to only heat the building now.”

Nearly 4 million of the 6.7 million dollar bond issue is slated to be used for HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), with the next largest needs being electrical, plumbing, a light retrofit, ceiling replacement, and finally flooring replacement. Construction could start in the spring and would be completed by December of 2013.

The proposed cost would be $1.95 per one thousand dollars of assessed valuation for 20 years. If valuations continue to increase by the average of 3% as projected, that assessed amount by the 20th year would be 1.11 per one thousand ending with an average of $1.48 over that same time frame.

I asked Versteeg if Montezuma didn’t approve the measure, if it would be forced to consolidate down the road. “No, not directly, but I think everybody realizes the importance of our school to the community, that it makes a vibrant community to have a school.”

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