Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 30, 2014

Mid-Prairie Board likes film club, but not auditorium

By Mary Zielinski | Sep 16, 2013

WELLMAN — A student proposed Mid-Prairie Film Club met with approval from the Mid-Prairie Board of Education Monday, but a performing arts auditorium, part of proposed districtwide improvements, was another matter.  None of the board had anything but praise and appreciation for the Fine Arts, but not for the auditorium’s $7 million price tag.
“It’s a big ticket item,” said Board President Jim Hussey as the board, in a work session, reviewed building project possibilities that include a $3.4 million middle school gym, a $2.8 million middle school HVAC and window replacement and an $875,000 central adminsitration office.  For both the auditorium and middle school gym, though, there are $1 million private donations for each.
Initially, the board started out with a list of 22 items with a nearly $20 million cost that Monday was down to seven with a cost of $15 to $17.4 million.  If there is no auditorium, costs drop to $8 to $11 million.  There are also plans for a Home School Assistance Program (HSAP) facility, a possible five classrooms at the middle school that was projected at $2.3 million.  However, offers for existing property in Kalona or Wellman could lower that estimate.  Real estate purchase was discussed in a closed session, but no action was taken.
The entire Mid-Prairie music staff, as well as a former member, attended the meeting, urging the board to consider the auditorium, that, as Becky Curtis stressed, “there are tons of supporters out there.”  In fact, recent solicitation efforts, raised $20,500 in committed donations, she said.  She asked the board, in its review, to consider specific needs and there is one for the arts.  She also noted that “no other are here” to support any other projects.
Even with donations exceeding $2 million and possible grants raising another $2 million, the district is still looking at a large bond issue in the spring of 2014.
Hussey said that “we cannot do the whole list,” that the board has to be responsive to the needs of all attendance centers.
Outgoing board member Jack Dillon said, “$7 million is too much,” and warned that the prior bond issue (in 1997) for $5.5 million passed by five votes.
“You’re skating on real thin ice,” he said, referencing the entire plan, not just the auditorium.
There also were concerns about increases in the property tax levy being a possible $2.55 per $1,000 valuation and the fact that the estimates are only for construction costs.  Engineering and legal fees would be additional.
The advocates Monday asked the board to consider including the auditorium, that it were defeated, another bond issue could be sought six months later without the facility.
Hussey said “we have to move forward,” and Superintendent Mark Schneider said that before any issue is sought, there will be considerableinformation/education  the public.
During the regular meeting the board unanimously approved the Film Club  that plans to cover all aspects from viewing and discussion to creation and production and a 28E Agreement with the Keota School District for Industrial Technology and Consumer Family Science classes as it had last year.

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