Safety concerns drive Western Dubuque School District bond issue - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Safety concerns drive Western Dubuque School District bond issue


Safety concerns within Iowa's largest geographic school district are prompting a push for improvements, but solving the problem isn't cheap.

The concerns come from the Western Dubuque Community School District, which wants to bond up to $16.5 million.

That's enough money to cover a number of concerns. Western Dubuque and Cascade high schools would get a security upgrade, and the school board members want to fund technology and classroom upgrades throughout the district.

Jake Feldmann is a coach, teacher and administrative assistant at Western Dubuque High School who is well aware of the school's security issue with its front entrance.

"Anybody can come in, and they can go down either which hallway. We don't have anybody, any security people or anybody looking at them," Feldmann said. "We do have signs posted for 'Office,' but it is kind of scary just to walk in here and know that you can go anywhere."

The school wants to expand its administrative offices to include an entry area through which all visitors would have to pass and sign in before entering the school.

"Teachers are concerned," Feldmann said. "We have teachers out in the hallway just to make sure everybody is where they're supposed to be and who is supposed to be in here, so it is a huge concern of ours."

The president of the district's school board Bob McCabe agrees.

"Today, at the two high schools, Western Dubuque here included, Cascade High School the other one, I can still just virtually walk in the door," he said Sunday afternoon, standing outside Western Dubuque High School.

"Yes, there are security cameras," he said, adding that's not enough.

The district's elementary and middle schools have been upgraded to meet security standards, McCabe said, and now it's the high schools' time for an update.

The district wants to bond up to $16.5 million to pay for that and other improvements.

Those include, "a fiber optic system in our entire district," McCabe said. "Today, we basically bounce signals from building to building, you know, and we have nine or 10 buildings."

Also, McCabe said, Western Dubuque High School needs an auditorium.

"In doing some investigating, we found out we may be the only 3A school in the state of Iowa, here at Western Dubuque, without an auditorium," McCabe said.

Students in band, show choir and plays use the school's old gym for performances.

The School Board will also ask taxpayers living within the Western Dubuque Community School District to vote on a one-dollar Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, or PPEL.

"The main thing is, for the property tax owner, this is neutral," McCabe said.

Both the School Board and a group in favor of the measures, Our Future Now, are emphasizing the fact that passage of the bond issue and PPEL will not increase property taxes.

A flier Our Future Now is circulating explains how the bond will be repaid, which McCabe said will happen over the course of 10 years.

"In the past, the expected tax rate would increase by $2.00 for this issue," the flier says.

Through the proposed method, however, is to "offset a tax rate increase by Sales Tax Revenues & reductions to other tax rates to achieve a Property Tax Neutral Ballot Issue," according to the flier.

It mentions factors that could affect property taxes are, "enrollment increases, valuation changes, and state funding laws. These factors exist regardless if the ballot issue is passed or defeated."

Plans for the bond money also include classrooms, locker rooms and a gymnasium at Cascade Junior-Senior High School, plus rooms at Cascade and Peosta Elementary Schools as well as Drexler Middle-Intermediate School.

Our Future Now posted information on its Facebook page HERE.

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