IDA GROVE, Iowa | Just weeks removed from an affirmative vote to consolidate the two neighboring districts, voters in the Odebolt-Arthur and Battle Creek-Ida Grove school district will decide Tuesday whether to raise taxes by more than $16 million for building upgrades.
Voters from the Odebolt-Arthur and Battle Creek-Ida Grove districts, which had a whole-grade sharing agreement for eight years, in June decided to fully consolidate into one district.
On Tuesday, voters will weigh in on a bond issue of $16.4 million to improve the high school in Ida Grove and the middle school in Odebolt. Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at a single polling place in each of the four towns comprising the district.
Under Iowa law, school referendums calling for an increase in property taxes must receive a "supermajority" of at least 60 percent to pass.
Superintendent Terry Kenealy said a committee for two years has looked into needed improvements, and added that the final plans would extend the building lives by 40 to 50 years.
One key piece will add a performance arts auditorium on the east side of the high school in Ida Grove, at an estimated cost of $3.8 million. Another $6.5 million would pay to modernize the gymnasium, update classrooms and improve accessibility.
For the school in Odebolt, an estimated $5.9 million would go toward upgrade classrooms and stage curtains, repairing the gym ceiling and addressing accessibility issues by adding an elevator and other pieces.
"Last winter the school districts hired an architect to work with the committee and the board members on this process to assist in the details and costing," Kenealy said.
An initial project estimate by an architect came back at $31 million, but was rejected as too expensive, the superintendent said.
Kenealy, who is in his third year as superintendent for both districts, said the referendum, if approved, would raise property taxes by $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. That's the highest increase permitted for a one-measure bond issue vote in Iowa.
The superintendent said some upcoming budget cuts, realized as a result of the consolidation, will reduce that property tax impact over the next few years.
A few seats on the school boards for each district also will be on Tuesday's ballot. The district covers parts of eastern Ida County and western Sac County.
Before passage in June, the proposed consolidation of the Odebolt-Arthur and Battle Creek-Ida Grove school districts went down to defeat twice, in 2011 and 2016.
In the most recent election, 540 voters in Battle Creek-Ida Grove said yes to the reorganization and 70 voted against it. In Odebolt-Arthur, there were 418 affirmative votes and 163 no votes.