School Bond Referendum information

Design Concepts                  Tax Impact               Information Sheet

 Griswold Community School District 

June 27, 2017 Bond Referendum 

Frequently Asked Questions                                                                                                                     updated May 23, 2017 

Q. Why are we having a School Bond referendum and how did we get here? 

  • • During the past few years, the Griswold Community School District (CSD) has focused on reducing operational costs. The district closely reviews every cost needed to deliver education to our students. 
  • • After staff salaries/benefits, facility operational costs are the largest expense. 
  • • The school district currently maintains 3 buildings, including two older elementary schools. These multiple attendance centers provided much needed space 50 years ago, but now are not sustainable. 
  • • Today, modernization/maintenance requirements for both elementary schools total almost $4 million. Investing this money in the existing buildings would NOT provide large opportunities to reduce expenses. 
  • • In Spring 2016, the school board asked volunteers to form a Facilities Committee that would evaluate the current educational facilities at Griswold CSD. Committee work began in July 2016. After many meetings, three Options were considered to develop a long-term plan for the district’s facilities that reduced expenses and maintained quality education. 
  • • January 2017 the school district hired an Architect firm to assess current facilities and develop options. 
  • • March 7, 2017 the Facilities Committee made a formal recommendation to the Griswold CSD Board to pursue a single campus in Griswold – this requires construction of a proposed elementary school addition attached to the existing Middle School/High School. 

Q. What are the risks of doing nothing? 

  • • First, the district would need to continue making emergency repairs and facility upgrades at TWO old Elementary Schools with unpredictable timing and costs. That would take money away from our students’ quality of education. 
  • • Second, we believe interest rates and construction costs will likely rise, making this project more costly in the future. 
  • • Third, the district needs voter approval to access low interest (3.5%) bond rates , which saves taxpayers money now and in the future. We don’t believe these low interest bond markets will be available forever. 
  • • Finally – and most importantly – if we do nothing, the future financial stability of the district and ability to maintain quality education will be at risk if the district is not able to reduce operating expenses. 

Q. What will happen to the TWO old Elementary School buildings? 

  • • The district is hopeful that buyers can be found for BOTH elementary buildings. However, we don’t want the old schools to remain vacant and become “eye-sores” if buyers do not materialize. 
  • • Both old elementary schools will remain in place for now. The existing elementary schools need to remain in place during construction, and there will be minimal disruption to education during that time. 
  • • A potential buyer has come forward for one elementary school. If a buyer is not found for the other old school, it will be demolished in the future once the proposed elementary school addition is finished. 

Q. We see temporary classrooms used all the time. Why not just bring in portable buildings? 

  • • Portable classrooms were discussed as part of the Facility Committee research. 
  • • Portable classrooms are expensive to rent and this expense would come from the School District General Fund, not the Building Fund. This option would INCREASE operational costs, not save money. 
  • • Portable classrooms do not provide a quality education environments. Elementary students would be required to wear coats to travel between classrooms, lunch room, gymnasium, library and other locations in the winter months. 
  • • Portable classrooms are still temporary solutions. A permanent facility would still be required. Therefore, implementing portable classrooms is MUCH more expensive, in the long run, than the proposed plan. 

Q. Would we still use the old gym at Elliott? 

  • • The old gym will continue to be used for our normal functions until the proposed elementary school addition is constructed and ready for occupancy. If the Elliott building is sold, the old gym would become the responsibility of the new owner. 

Q. Why are we adding a third gymnasium? Do we really need another gym space? 

  • • The proposed elementary school addition option does include a large, multi-purpose room that is similar to a gym. However, we call this space a “gymacafetorium”, since this space would also serve as indoor recess area during inclement weather, a lunch room every school day, a performing arts area for music events, and a gathering space for other parent/public occasions. 
  • • The proposed building plan removes 2 old gyms, replaces them with 1 new one – just like the elementary buildings. 
  • • The inclusion of the proposed multipurpose space is similar with other new/add-on elementary building plans done in school districts across in the Midwest. 

Q. The proposed Elementary School Addition is being built in area immediately south of the high school. Where will the playground be? 

  • • The playground will be located on the south side of the proposed elementary school addition. 

Q. Will there be separation between the Elementary and older students? 

  • • Yes. The current design for the proposed elementary school addition groups various grade levels together, while being adjacent to one-another. 
  • • High school students have expressed support for being near elementary students to provide mentoring and tutoring opportunities. 
  • • Successfully bringing all of the district’s students together at one facility will foster stronger school spirit to younger students and reduce the anxiety of transitioning from Elementary to Middle School. 

Q. Why not repair/upgrade the two existing elementary school buildings? 

  • • The district is committed to providing an excellent education to our students and saving money wherever possible – it’s the prudent thing to do, for students and patrons. 

  • • Modernizing our two older elementary schools would cost almost $4 million and the district would still operate from two schools that were not built for today’s 21st Century learning methods. 
  • • By moving to one elementary school, 10 days of instruction time will be added to the school experience – since transportation time will be reduced every school day. Maintaining two elementary schools robs students of this additional instruction time. 
  • • By moving to one elementary school, the district anticipates saving more than $150,00 annually in reduced operational savings measures. Modernizing the two elementary schools means we miss these savings EVERY YEAR. Ten years from now, the district would miss $1.5 million of potential savings. 
  • • By moving to one elementary school, teachers may collaborate more and students will be able to interact together. This positive interaction strengthens our school district and our communities. 

Q. Why haven’t the Elementary School improvement been made before now? 

  • • The school district invests approximately $80,000 every year to maintain three school facilities. This includes repair, replacement and day-to-day items such as light bulbs and floor care. 
  • • Both Elementary Schools now require a significant amount of capital maintenance. Savings from not needing to maintain both old Elementary schools will be re-directed to the High School/Middle School. 
  • • The School District prioritizes maintenance needs, and has done many things in recent years, including: o Add Security System at exterior doors -- Add Security System at exterior doors 
  • o Replace fixtures in preschool bathrooms -- Replace duct work at the stage 
  • o Replace sections of sidewalks -- Repair exterior wall at Music room 
  • o Replace exterior entrance doors -- Replace paving outside of Kitchen 
  • o Add exterior lighting -- Replace North and East entrance doors 
  • o Roof Inspection -- Replace lighting fixtures in Gym 

Elliott Elementary Lewis Elementary 

Q. What happened to the Middle School/High School building improvements from a few years ago? 

  • • Many projects were completed in recent years, including: replace asphalt parking lots with concrete, new parking lot lighting, remove and replace roofing/flashing, new storm drainage, remodel 2 locker rooms, remodel 4 restrooms, add air conditioning in computer lab, and other HAVC improvements. 

Q. Will $9,900,000 pay for all the improvements needed? 

  • • The district will not have final costs until the proposed elementary addition building and systems are designed and bids submitted. 
  • • We are working with experienced construction professionals to develop reasonable and likely projections for these anticipated costs. 

Q. How will this proposed elementary school addition project affect our operating costs? 

  • • The number of teachers will remain about the same with the proposed Elementary School addition. 
  • • This plan has significant impact on operating costs because total square footage is reduced by 12,000 square feet and TWO old buildings (plus the Elliott gym) go away. Common areas decrease and dedicated spaces will only be located in one building. The big financial benefit will be avoiding significant maintenance/repair costs at both old Elementary schools during the next 10 years. 
  • • With one campus, the district estimates $150,000 of annual savings from current expenditure levels. 
  • • We believe it makes more sense to invest in the future, not continue to maintain two old buildings. 

Q. The Facilities Committee recommended repairs to the High School. Where will funding for maintaining the High School come from? 

  • • The School Board received the Facilities Committee Project recommendation in March 2017 and approved their plan as submitted. Because the School Board wants to keep tax impact to a minimum, the Board decided to ask the voters only for the $9.9 million required for the construction of the proposed elementary school addition, and specific improvements to the Middle School/High School. This also keeps the bond referendum within the school district’s 5% property tax debt limit. 

  • Improvements below are planned for the Middle School/High School using monies from this bond: s o Selective interior renovations 
  • o HVAC renovations & IAQ improvements 
  • o Building Envelope & Exterior Maintenance 
  • o Administration area renovation 
  • o STEM media center & FACS room renovation 
  • o Office area to Business classroom 
  • o HS gymnasium renovation / MS gymnasium floor 
  • o MS Science/Behavioral, storage area 

Q. Why are we doing work on the existing MS/HS? What are we going to do to the MS/HS? 

  • • There are areas of need in both Middle School and the High School. To address the entire campus, the Facilities Committee felt it was important to package as many upgrades as practical NOW, rather than come back to voters in the future to address these facility needs. 
    • • MS/HS projects will likely include: Additional MS/HS Items, as cost allows: o Selective interior renovations -- STEM media center & FACS room renovation 
    • o HVAC renovation & improvements -- Office to Business classroom 

    • o Building Envelope & Exterior Maintenance -- HS gym renovation / MS Gymnasium floor 
    • o Administration area relocation -- MS Science/Behavioral, Storage 

Q. What are the Educational Benefits of the proposed Elementary School addition? 

  • • Increased class time (10+ days) at the elementary level – due to reduced bus time 
  • • Teachers collaborate with grade alike teachers in planning and supporting whole class instruction 
  • • Students needing interventions would having flexible spaces to meet their varying needs 
  • • With students in one place, staff can match students with similar social, emotional or academic needs 
  • • Full-time elementary principal for student and staff support, always on-site during school day 
  • • Ability to use cross age mentoring using students from the MS/HS 
  • • Dedicated space for volunteers to work with the elementary students (currently sit on floors) 

Q. Enrollment is declining. Our school system is going to fail eventually. Why should we borrow money to pay on a school longer than it will be around? 

  • • Declining enrollment is not a recent event or unique to Griswold. Griswold student enrollment has declined from 1152 in 1975 to 528 in 2015. But consider this... 

  • • There are many “small” schools in Iowa that are providing quality education and are fiscally sound. 
  • • Enrollment projections are anticipated to be more stable in the next ten years. 
  • • One vital key to success is the ability to adapt and reduce operating costs as enrollment changes. 
  • • Moving to a single elementary school is a critical component to establishing financial flexibility and maintaining our district’s viability. 

Q. The project is too expensive! Why are we spending so much? Why does it cost so much? 

  • • The district focus is on reducing operational costs, while maintaining high-quality education. 
  • • Professional designers have considered current and future education needs at the proposed elementary school addition and sized the proposed facilities using conservative parameters. Several options were considered to reduce construction/operational costs and deliver an appropriate facility. 
  • • Designers proposed renovating existing spaces, rather building new spaces – such as Admin areas. 
  • • Designers are proposing similar finishes to what currently exists – which is serviceable, not extravagant. 
  • • Construction costs tend to rise, so waiting to do something in the future will likely be more expensive. 
  • • Despite the total cost of $9.9 million, the resulting tax levy for the district will still be lower than neighboring school districts to the north and south. 

Q. How many years to pay off the bonds? 

  • • 20 years, but bonds can be paid off early. 

Q. What if the interest rates on the bonds are higher than planned? 

  • • Higher interest rates will reduce the amount of funds available to spend on the project. 
  • The school is working with financial experts that specialize in school financing. They are assisting with developing a financial plan that is reasonable and prudent. 
  • • The proposed $9,900,000 project is based on selling 20-year bonds at 3.75% interest rate. Current bond market interest rates for 20-year bonds are actually in the 3.00% range. 
  • • The 3.75% estimated rate was purposely choosen to be conservative and if rates are lower when bonds are sold, then their pay-off date may be earlier. 

Below are recent 20-year school bond sales by other IA school districts and interest rates they received: District 




New Hampton 
















East Buchanan 




Q. What is our enrollment, and what is it expected to be in the future? 

  • • Our enrollment has averaged 597 students the last 10 years, and this year we have 528 students enrolled – PreK to 12th grade. We expect future enrollment to level off at about 500 students. 

Iowa Department of Education Projected Enrollment vs. our Actual Enrollment at the Griswold CSD Year 


























Q. Will the project be up for public bid? 

  • • Yes, the proposed not-to-exceed $9,900,000 project will be legally advertised and all construction work will be competitively bid. 

Q. What is the timeline for the Project? 

    • • With Voter approval on June 27, 2017 the project will proceed as follows: o Final Plans/Specifications for Bidding by October 2017 
    • o Competitive Bidding by Dec 2017 
    • o Construction New Addition/Elementary School March 2018-2019 
    • Renovations Summer of 2018 & 2019 

    • o Welcome Students to their new School August 2019 

Q. When and where will voting take place? 

  • • Voting will take place on Tuesday June 27, 2017 from noon CDT to 8:00 pm CDT at 
  • Elliott Community Building located at 402 Main Street in Elliott, IA 
  • Griswold Community Building located at 601 2nd Street in Griswold, IA 
  • Lewis Public Library located at 412 West Main Street in Lewis, IA 

Q. Will early voting and absentee ballots be available? 

Absentee Voting by Mail 

  • • Registered voters may request an absentee ballot be sent to them by mail. You must complete an absentee ballot request form and return the original, signed form to your county auditor. The request form does not need to be witnessed or notarized. 

Request Deadline 

  • • The request form must be received in the county auditor’s office by 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election. If the request is received so late that is unlikely the absentee ballot can be returned by mail in time to be considered for counting, the county auditor will enclose a statement to that effect with the absentee ballot. 

Q. Who is eligible to vote? 

  • • To vote in the election, you must be: 

A US citizen 

At least 18 years old on Election Day 

A legal resident of the Griswold Community School District for 30 days preceding the election 

Valid identification will be required and could include a driver’s license, non-driver’s identification card, tribal government issued identification card, or student identification certificate. 

Q. How can I find out more information? 

  • • Please contact: 

School Board Members: 

Heather Pelzer Steve Baier Scott Hansen 

Rob Peterson Don Smith Erica Kirchhoff 

Scott Peterson 

Dave Henrichs, Superintendent of Griswold Community School District, 712-778-2152 

Nigel Horton, Principal -- Elementary School 712-767-2221 or 712-769-2221 

Katie Elwood, Principal – 6-12 and Activities Director 712-778-2154 

Griswold Facilities Committee Members: 

Angie Amos     Adam Bierbaum     Bruce Brunk 

Donna Forsyth     Aaron Houser     Joni Kelley 

Deana Lewis     Megan Potter     JoBeth Reynolds 

Phil Rink     Ryan Smith     Danielle Steinhoff     Roy Weston 

Griswold Community School District website, 

Tigers FACT Committee on Facebook