DENVER — The third time was the charm for a Denver Schools bond initiative Tuesday.
Voters approved a referendum for $7.2 million in general obligation bonds to help fund an approximately $10.4 million project that includes a new gym, auditorium and indoor track and workout facilities.
In the unofficial tally Tuesday, 1050 voters approved the project while 574 voted against it for a 64.7 percent majority in favor. The initiative needed 60 percent approval to pass.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Scott Krebsbach, Denver Community Schools board president.
The current gym, built in 1956, is outdated, not very suitable for performing arts events, not handicap accessible and doesn’t hold many fans for sporting events, school officials said.
Turnout for the vote was good and voting was steady all day, Krebsbach said. He said before the vote a strong turnout would likely be good news for the school district. Initially, the Iowa Secretary of State’s office announced voting wouldn’t start until noon due to forecast snow. Instead, voting began at 7 a.m. as originally scheduled.
“I was optimistic early on, and hour-to-hour we were turning out more people than in June,” he said. “That gave us a lot of confidence.
In June a referendum won approval from about 59 percent of the voters but needed a supermajority of 60 percent to pass. It fell short by about a dozen votes.
In December 2014, a $6.9 million referendum failed with only about 54 percent of the votes cast in favor of the measure.
Ryan Wirtjes, coordinator of the volunteer group Support our Students, said supporters learned from the narrow June defeat. The group worked to get supporters to vote early via absentee ballots and then encouraged others to get to the polls Tuesday.
“You get your die-hards early,” Wirtjes said. Wirtjes has three children ranging from 4 years old to fifth-grade age. They will use the new facilities.
Property owners in the school district will see a $1.59 per $1,000 of taxable property value increase on their property tax bills. In addition to the bonds, the district plans to use $1.5 million in sales tax revenues and $500,000 in physical plant and equipment levy funds. Officials also plan to raise $1.5 million in public donations.
Krebsbach said the best part of the evening was telling younger students on hand for the vote count they will be able to use new gym and auditorium facilities.
“They were excited,” he said. “It meant so much to them and meant so much to me to be able to tell them.”
The facility will be a draw for school and community events, he added. District officials have said the indoor track and workout facilities would be available for community use.
“It’s going to expand what these youth programs really can do,” Wirtjes said. “It’s going to be good to get these kids into the facilities they deserve.”