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Hunt Elementary school progress

In this October 2018 file photo, a geothermal well system is shown being drilled at the Sioux Community Schools' Hunt Elementary School construction site. The current Hunt building is in the background.

SIOUX CITY -- The last months of classes in Hunt Elementary School are winding down, with the building likely to be demolished this summer in the midtown Sioux City neighborhood.

The Sioux City School Board took more steps Monday toward replacing the century-old school with a new one, holding a public hearing on a plan for demolition of Hunt, after some asbestos is removed. The total package aired at the board meeting also included site improvements and street reconstruction for the project.

The combined project with an estimated $2.45 million cost will be put out for bids in a few weeks, and a contract will be settled by the school board.

The succeeding school, also to be named Hunt Elementary, will be built in the 1900 and 2000 blocks of Jackson and Nebraska streets. The goal is to be finished by August 2022 at a cost of $20.5 million.

The existing Hunt school, which dates to 1906, is by far the oldest in the city’s public school system. It will be demolished after students use the building for one last year through May, then for a few years they will be relocated to Crescent Park.

District director of operations and maintenance Brian Fahrendholz said a final design of the roughly 90,000-square-foot building is underway, and will be aired later in the year.

The new school will be built just to the south of the current one. Recent tasks on the new Hunt grounds include installation of geothermal wells.

A fourth and final bid package is expected by late 2019 or early 2020, for the main construction of the building.

There is one other Sioux City School District building underway with construction. A new Bryant Elementary School will open in August, at an estimated $24 million cost. The prior Bryant facility was located at 821 30th St., and dated to 1890 before it was demolished in summer 2016.

Budget talks

Also in the meeting, the board members discussed steps towards setting the 2019-20 year budget. They discussed three smaller elements of the more than $200 million proposed budget, covering the amounts in the Debt Service, Management and Student Activity funds.

The proposal shared by Chief Financial Officer Patty Blankenship showed Debt Service Fund expenditures could rise from the $6.7 million of this year to $9.7 million.

Board members plan to discuss the budget in the next three bi-monthly meetings through March 25, then adopt the financial plan on April 8. At the  Jan. 28 board meeting, officials said the budget may be set without the types of multimillion-dollar cuts that took place the last two years.

There is likely a higher state funding stream coming for 2019-20, as Republican statehouse leaders on Feb. 4 said they reached an agreement with Gov. Kim Reynolds on a 2.1 percent boost in general funding for K-12 districts.

In recent years, Sioux City district officials have lamented small amounts of new revenues for K-12 districts from the Iowa Legislature, in order to pay teachers and fund programs. Supplemental state aid has been approved at 1.1 and 1 percent in the last two years.

School board member Perla Alarcon-Flory said the 2.1 percent SSA might be the most that can be anticipated.

"I don't know if we can get more than that," Alarcon-Flory said.

In the current $204 million budget, of which $169.6 million comes from general fund spending, the district's property tax rate is $15.35 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or down by 4 cents per $1,000 from the prior year. A big step in the new budget will come in the next meeting on Feb. 25, when the proposed school tax levy will be unveiled.

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