The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

School bond vote sparks controversy

Signs for and against the school bond can be seen around town. Photo by Mira Braneck

By Chloe Wray

Hand-painted signs with red backgrounds and fronted with white lettering line the yards of homes and businesses along Route 146, Route 6 and neighborhoods across town. Not as present when Grinnell College students left campus, the signs are now found in contrast to their neighboring orange signs, which have been familiar since January. The orange signs read, “Vote Yes For Our Kids”; the red signs, “Vote No On Bond Issue.”

The issue first came to prominence in January of 2018, with a failed vote for the proposed $60 million bond on Feb. 6. It failed with 52 percent of the vote. A “yes” vote over 60 percent is required for a school bond levy to succeed.

Dr. Janet Stutz is the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District superintendent. If passed, the bond will finance Stutz’s plan to renovate the district through the construction of a single elementary school to replace the current three, as well as extensive maintenance and refurbishment of the high school and middle school buildings.

By Stutz’s assessment, none of the school buildings have sufficient storm shelters and none can securely account for every visitor. Extensive updates are required in the buildings to update mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as well as roofing, running a bill of an estimated $15-19 million for the replacement of the high school HVAC systems in the middle and high school.

The finances behind the bond would require an increase to the current tax bond levy by $4.05. By balancing other levies, there will be an observed increase of $2.60 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable residential value, resulting in an average increase of $230 a year for Grinnell homeowners for an estimated 24 years or until the bond is paid off.

Stutz will be holding an informational session at Grinnell College, JRC Room 101, at Noon on Tuesday, September 4. The League of Women Voters will also hold an informational session on September 5 at 7:00 PM in Drake Library.

On the other side of the vote sits Dale Lamb, local lawyer and lifelong Grinnell resident. In a flier from Lamb and others against the bond, twelve points of opposition to the bond are cited.

Among these concerns is contamination of the proposed site for the elementary school, a former industrial site. However, Stutz had tests run and the results looked over by Grinnell College chemistry professors Steven Sieck and Andrew Graham. She assures constituents that toxin levels are not of concern. Lamb disagrees; he does not feel the tests were extensive enough, and based upon the anecdotes of former employees of the site, such as one man’s claim of dumping at least fifty barrels of chemicals, Lamb and others are not convinced of its safety.

Other points of concern include skepticism of the need for a new elementary school building when some believe the old buildings should be maintained for historic preservation. Lamb feels that the schools in the neighborhoods are important to the community, something he says Stutz may not understand as she does not have the same historical perspective of the town.

Lamb also tries to represent those in Grinnell who would not be able to financially sustain such an increase to their taxes. While homeowners would feel the impact of the bond levy directly, Lamb expects costs in rent to also rise. Lamb sees the bond issue as disregarding the financial reality of many Grinnell residents.

A teacher himself, Lamb rejects assumptions that he is not on the side of the children, that he is not concerned for their safety. Rather, he asserts that he feels there are less fiscally drastic ways to go about change in the community and its schools.

Lamb is organizing what he calls a community discussion at the Drake Library on Saturday, Sept. 1, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. He invites all, whether they are on the yes or no side, to attend to hear what their neighbors have to say.

The vote will be held Sept. 11, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at Grinnell’s Elk Lodge on Third Ave.


Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article did not include the informational meetings occurring at Grinnell College and Drake Library. The article has been updated to include these events.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (1)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    M.J. ConnerSep 1, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Nice job, Chloe. You present both perspectives thoroughly, impartially, and clearly.