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Erin Norton and her students reconfigure desks and chairs for the next class in a makeshift classroom curtained off from the weightlifting area at Janesville Consolidated School on Wednesday.

JANESVILLE — An $8.6 million bond issue to expand and upgrade Janesville Consolidated School was approved Tuesday by just over 62 percent of voters.

School district voters cast ballots on two questions — the bond issue and an increase in the property tax rate of up to $4.05 per $1,000 of taxable value. The questions were approved 731 to 432 for the bond issue and 724 to 438 for the tax increase, according to unofficial results. Each question needed at least 60 percent approval for passage.

“I can only thank the committee,” said Superintendent B.J. Meaney, referencing those who planned and worked on the referendum. “We have some people who really need to be recognized. They put a ton of time into this project because of how passionate they are.”

The bond funds, which will be repaid with the increased taxes over a 20-year period, will be used to add 10 classrooms in preschool through high school and a new competition gym, among other improvements. It was the district’s third effort to pass a referendum after two 2016 votes fell short.

“One of the things the voters told us last time was they didn’t have enough information,” said Meaney. So district officials explained the project on social media, in mailers and at an open house. “We spent a lot of time on making sure the information got out there properly.”

The Board of Education and administration also plan on taking steps to minimize the increase. Officials pledged to keep the net tax rate increase at $2.71, which would boost it overall to $14.13 per $1,000 of taxable value for the fiscal year starting July 1. For the owner of a $100,000 home, the annual property tax increase would total $153.05.

The management levy rate, which covers costs such as liability insurance and early retirement payouts, would drop to zero from $1.11 per $1,000 of taxable value currently. The voter-approved physical plant and equipment levy, which pays for facility maintenance needs and equipment replacement, would drop from $1.34 to $1.11 per $1,000 of taxable value.

In 2022, the PPEL expires and district officials do not plan on asking voters to extend it for another 10 years. The tax rate would go back up to $1.11 for the management levy at that time. As far as expenses paid for with the physical plant and equipment levy, the district will still have the board-approved PPEL of 33 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.

A total of 1,163 votes were cast in the referendum — about 60 percent of 1,925 registered voters, according to the Bremer County auditor’s office.

“The community came out and their voices were heard,” said Meaney. “The turnout was tremendous.”

He said officials will begin working with architect as soon as possible to begin planning for the project.

“We’re really hoping that by the first day of school in (the fall of) 2019 that everything will be complete,” said Meaney.

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Waterloo Schools / HCC Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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