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Hall: Full steam ahead

SPRING VALLEY — It’s official. The Hall High School Board is going to ask voters in Spring Valley, Ladd, Cherry, Dalzell, Seatonville, Hollowayville and Bureau to approve borrowing $32 million for a new high school.

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, the board unanimously approved moving forward with the project and putting the referendum question on the April 9, 2013, ballot.

The Hall Board hired an architect earlier this year to do an assessment of the building. After weighing a variety of options, in September the board approved building a new school at a cost of $32 million and demolishing all of the current buildings. The alternative would be $18 million in required renovations.

Hall School Board President Jack Boroski said the board members felt they needed to move now, rather than waiting until the March 2014 election to put the referendum question on the ballot.

“The quicker we can get going, the less it will cost,” Boroski said.

The vote came following a presentation by David Pistorius of First Midstate Investment Bankers.

Pistorius told the board he would provide basic information on the referendum and the bonds that would be issued if the referendum was successful.

“We basically hold your hand through the whole process,” he said.

Pistorius had a projection as to what the project would cost taxpayers. For the owner of a $100,000 home, the monthly tax increase would be $32.05, or an annual increase of $384.61. That figure is based on an estimated 4.5 percent interest rate and an annual 2 percent growth in assessed valuation. He said the rate might seem high, but it included looking into the future for the 25-year term of the loan. It would add about $1.41 to the district’s current $2.94 tax rate.

Pistorius said the board wouldn’t have to issue all the bonds at once, if the referendum is successful. The bonding authority is good for five years, so the board could issue part of the bonds immediately and the rest as needed to save on interest.

Pistorius said that with the current economic climate, referendum questions like this have slowed in the past three years. First Midstate used to have between six and nine referendums being voted on at each election with 75 percent of them passing.

Pistorius said typically a referendum campaign takes eight to nine weeks, so the actual campaign wouldn’t begin until late February. Before that, a steering committee must be formed and decisions made about what should be included in the campaign.

Pistorius said passing a referendum is not a superintendent and board project.

“It needs to be a community project,” he said. “You really want the key members of your community leading the charge, and you’d be the support to those community members.”

The campaign would need to have a lot of momentum.

“You want that energy, that synergy, to go right through April 9,” he said. “You don’t want to get everything done, get all the information out, touch all the folks, and then have a week or two to wait.”

Pistorius then turned to what he said was one of the most important numbers the board needed to remember.

Bureau County turnout in the Nov. 6 election was about 70 percent. Pistorius said there are about 7,100 registered voters in the district. The board needs to take the number of registered voters times the projected turnout. Then divide that number by two, and add one.

“That’s how many yes votes you have to have out there,” he said.

On Wednesday, the board didn’t make any decision as to whether to hire First Midstate or another investment banker to handle the bonds. There is no cost to the district unless the referendum passes.

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