The average Jordan homeowner could see a $456 annual increase in property taxes if voters approve a $39.5 million referendum for Jordan Public Schools this fall.
The school board says the improvements are crucial due to growth of the community.
The November referendum will feature three questions. The first asks voters to raise the per-student operational levy by $300. If this measure fails, funding for the rest of the proposed projects are not possible.
In addition to providing operating dollars for proposed projects, district officials said a levy increase will keep elementary class sizes down, expand and improve elective offerings at the middle and high schools and help retain and attract quality employees.
The second question asks voters to approve a $24.5 million building bond to renovate the elementary school, construct a new building for early learning services, remodel the high school office to build a secure entrance and improve parking and roads around the schools and Community Education and Recreation Center.
The third question is a $15 million building bond, that would allow the district to expand the high school auditorium and build an indoor multipurpose field house that would house a turf field with golf and archery simulator bays, a track and other amenities aimed at serving the entire community as an extension of the Community Education and Recreation Center.
Jordan currently receives $6,312 per student through state aid. Recent state legislation included a 2 percent increase for all Minnesota schools for the next two years, but after that, Superintendent Matt Helgerson said increases in state aid are never guaranteed.
Locally, taxpayers pitch in $724 per student — the state-mandated bare minimum. Jordan taxpayers contribute less to the local operating levy than taxpayers in similar sized districts and neighboring districts.
Other communities support similarly sized schools — like Belle Plaine, Byron and Annandale — with a $984 per-student average. The average per-student levy of neighboring schools — like Prior Lake, New Prague and Shakopee — is $1,037. The state average is nearly $500 more per student than Jordan’s levy.
Those numbers only indicate an average, however; not every Jordan household contributes $724. The amount is totaled and divvied up among taxpayers based on their property value. So the average Jordan home, valued at $250,000, contributes $1,049 in taxes to fund the school district’s operating authority and building bonds.
If all three referendum measures are approved by voters, that average will rise to $1,505 annually — marking a $456 annual increase for the average Jordan home, or about $38 per month.
A $125,000 home would see a $201 annual increase, while a home valued at $550,000 would see an annual increase of $1,064.
If the public votes against raising the levy, the district will need to cut its budget by an estimated $200,000.
Driven by growth
District officials say the developments are driven by “growth and an ever-changing society, in order to meet the expectations of our students, families, and the residents of our district for years to come.”
The plan was developed over a 16-month period by a group of parents, community members, teachers, an architectural firm and district financial advisers and administration.
Since 2003, the school district has grown by 447 students, and projections show the district could add another 131 students in the next six years. These projections do not take into account the construction of a possible 400-home development neighboring the elementary school.
The growing pains are most evident in the elementary school, where lunch is a constant struggle. Helgerson and cafeteria staff detailed these difficulties to a crowd of about 50 community members at an informational meeting held June 12 at the high school. Students begin lunch shifts as early as 10:50 and are crammed across the cafeteria and a multi-purpose room.
“It’s been too small for five to 10 years,” Helgerson said. “We’re using the multi-purpose room in addition to the cafeteria. The multi-purpose room was designed also to use for phy-ed; we’re using it mostly for lunch. Again, it’s the problem of several hundred more students there than when those spaces were built.”
“The kitchen is very small, very old and actually it’s unsafe for kids,” Nutritional Services Director Andrea Schaak said.
Unlike most school cafeterias, food is served on a counter and not from a heated food well.
“The kids have to come right by the hot trays, we take them out of the hot holding units and have to serve them that way and it isn’t a safe way to feed kids,” Schaak said.
If the second question passes, the elementary school will no longer house early learning programs, giving students and staff more room to breath as classrooms and the cafeteria are remodeled.
The district’s long term plan revolves largely around the development of a “south campus” that would house an Early Learning Services facility, a recreational facility and eventually, a new elementary school.
A new, two-story elementary school building, which is not a part of this year’s proposed referendum, is estimated to cost $42.7 million.
The south campus is a 40-acre lot of farmland at 940 Broadway St. S, just south of town. The land was purchased by the school district in July 2016 at a cost of $1.025 million using certificates of participation. The loan is paid back using annual capital allocations, $1,400 monthly rent from the house that sits on that property and a crop land lease of $200 per acre annually.
One of the key priorities in future development is freeing up space in the elementary school. Approval of the second question would allow the district to move early learning services out of the elementary school and into a new building on the south campus.
The $8.5 million building would house Kids Company (a before-and after-school program) and other pre-K programs. The district said community education offerings for K-4 are currently limited due to space constraints.
The elementary school would undergo $6.3 million in classroom, infrastructure and cosmetic renovations. An additional $700,000 would go toward expanding the cafeteria by downsizing the gym and turning it into a multi-purpose room. A new elementary gym would be added onto the school for an estimated $2.1 million.
District officials say the current elementary layout limits shared teaching and learning spaces and has inadequate kitchen facilities, gym space and cafeteria space. The school also lacks a loading dock. The long-term plan, after a new elementary school is built, is to turn the current building into a community space that would include district offices, health services, community education and Summit Academy programming (high school level professional studies courses that combine cross-curricular and real-world learning).
Another project is $3.6 million in high school renovations and construction of a STEAM lab. The lab would house high powered computers for computer aided drafting programs, 3D printers and a robotics lab and equipment. Other renovations would include moving the front office closer to the high school entrance to increase safety measures.
Another $1 million would be used to reconfigure school and CERC parking lots and road access. The district and Jordan City Council have agreed to partner on a $24,193 traffic management study that will analyze congestion, particularly during pickup and drop-off hours, along Sunset Drive and Aberdeen Avenue. The two parties have agreed to split the cost of the study.
Rounding out the first slate of projects, the district is looking to allocate $400,000 to build a parking lot along Hope Avenue and $800,000 to build a community recreation field on the south campus.
Approval of the third question would OK a $5.5 million high school auditorium renovation that would add 200 seats and update technology in the theater. Helgerson said the school needs special permission from the fire marshal to bring in additional seating for popular events like the spring pops concert.
A $9.3 million recreation building would be built on the south campus near the proposed early learning center. The building would consist of a large indoor facility with field turf with golf and archery simulator bays, a track and other amenities aimed at serving the entire community as an extension of the CERC. The facility would include field sports space for soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball, track and field and football
District officials are also interested in developing partnerships and rental agreements with other school districts to potentially give students who want to play currently unavailable activities, like lacrosse and hockey, a partner.
If all three measures are approved, construction on the south campus would begin in April 2020 and June 2020 on the north campus. The last time the school district held a referendum was in March 2014 to secure funding for CERC and remodel the middle school.