Okoboji votes for infrastructure funding

Julie Cooper guides a voter through the process of receiving his ballot Tuesday, Sept. 10, at the Milford Community Center. Voters approved a measure to adopt a revenue purpose statement specifying the use of revenues the Okoboji School District will receive from Iowa’s Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) Fund on or after Jan. 1, 2031.

MILFORD—Okoboji School District voters overwhelmingly approved a public mea­sure on Tuesday, Sept. 10, that affects funding for future school infrastructure projects.

Out of 381 total ballots cast, 333 people voted in favor of adopting a revenue purpose statement specifying the use of revenues Okoboji will re­­ceive from Iowa’s Secure an Ad­­vanced Vision for Education (SAVE) Fund on or after Jan. 1, 2031.

The results of the special election became official after they were canvassed and ap­­proved by the boards of supervisors in Clay and Dickinson counties.

Parts of those two counties are covered by the school district, which has 5,342 registered voters. About 7.1 percent of that number turned out for the special election.

Because 87 percent of the Okoboji voters who turned out passed the public measure, the school district’s revenue purpose statement, which is in effect until 2031, is set to be extended until 2051. A simple majority was needed for the ballot issue to be approved.

“We’re just very thankful to our voters for coming out and voting for the resubmittal and reauthorization of our revenue purpose statement,” said Okoboji superintendent Todd Abrahamson. “We’re very excited for the support and commitment from the Okoboji community and our voters.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Iowa House File 546 into law on May 24, extending the statewide penny sales tax to Jan. 1, 2051; the SAVE legislation is projected to generate $26.2 billion between 2019 and 2051.

SAVE allows Iowa school districts to borrow against statewide penny sales tax revenue to help fund school infrastructure projects.

A revenue purpose statement defines the parameters and limits of how a school district may spend the money that it collects as part of SAVE.

Abrahamson said the second and third phases of work being planned for Okoboji’s educational facilities will benefit from the passage of the public measure.

SAVE dollars will be used to help pay for needed infrastructure updates at the high and elementary school buildings in Milford, including the completion of roofing and heating, ventilating and air conditioning work.

“We still have to address our infrastructure of electrical, plumbing, window removal/replacement, tuckpointing of our external brick walls,” Abrahamson said.

“We have to complete the rest of our roof and HVAC re­­placements on our high school and elementary and also repair and replace parking lots and much more in the two facilities,” he said.

Okoboji is getting ready to work with its architecture and design teams to put a plan into place so work on the infrastructure updates at the high school and elementary buildings could start by the late spring or early summer of next year.

Abrahamson estimated the second and third phases of work would take one to three years to complete.

“We’ll put some rough estimates together and then fine-tune those,” he said. “Our goal would be to bring a proposal to the school board by early spring so we could move forward with phases two and three.”

As for the first phase of work that is being done on Okoboji’s educational facilities, school district voters last year approved a $25 million bond issue to help pay for the construction of a new middle school building next to the high school.

That bond issue also helped pay for the majority of roofing and HVAC work at the high and elementary schools, along with football field and track renovations and new playground equipment purchases and installation.

Most of the first phase of work, which began in May, is set to be finished this year, with the middle school building project on schedule to be completed by the summer of next year.

Abrahamson again ex­­pressed his appreciation to Okoboji voters for approving the 20-year extension of the school district’s revenue purpose statement.

“It’s great to be in a community that really supports the school system,” he said. “Without them, it’s hard to this stuff. We want to thank them.”