“It’s a need”: Indian Hills’ President on the college’s $28 million bond referendum

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 9:20 PM CDT
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WAPELLO COUNTY, Iowa (KYOU) - November 2nd will be a big day for Indian Hills Community College. On the ballot will be a public measure regarding a $28 million bond referendum. It’s the college’s first since 1983.

Indian Hills’ president, Dr. Matt Thompson says now’s the time to do it. “It’s a really good time to invest moving forward,” he explains, “with rates being as low as they are now.”

Throughout the last several months, Thompson has appeared up at various board and council meetings across Indian Hills’ 10-county area: school boards, City Councils, Board of Supervisors. Wherever he can go and pitch his bond referendum to the public. Thompson notes it “takes a lot of time but it’s well worth the effort.”

Because, as he says, the things the money will be paying for aren’t “things that we want; these are things that we need to really provide a quality education.”

The bond referendum covers five areas: a new education building on the Centerville campus, renovations and improvements to the Ottumwa Fine Arts building, expansions to the Tom Arnold Net Center, a criminal justice training center, which not only can be used by criminal justice majors, but also to train local law enforcement, and virtual classrooms will be put in high schools across the college’s region.

These items come from months of discussion with communities in the college’s region. Thompson held a press conference in April to discuss these improvements.

But some things have changed since then. For one, the workforce. It seems like nearly every employer is hiring, and Thompson says these projects will help provide a supply of employees. “Everybody’s looking for nurses, teachers, welders...industrial mechanics,” Thompson explains. “That’s what we do.”

Another change since April: the price tag. In April, the projects cost $34.7 million. The college managed to drop that down by around seven million dollars, through various grants and gifts.

But Thompson says it’s still a lot. They’ve tried to keep the cost as low as possible. One measure they’ve taken is stretching the bond out over 20 years. “You could do it over a shorter amount of time which would increase,” says Thompson. “This spreads it out.”

Another note: the $28 million will be divided evenly across the 10-counties, meaning each county will only pay $2.8 million over 20 years. While tax levies will be raised, Thompson says it’s only a few dollars.

The bond has to pass with 60% of the votes, as well. And in the case it doesn’t pass in November, Thompson says he’ll try again next year.

While Indian Hills’ bond is the only public measure on the ballot, there are other school-related votes in form of school boards. Here are the options for each school district in Wapello county:

Cardinal School Board Member:

Andy Noe and Timothy Albert

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont School Board Member:

Director District # 2 – Micah Van Mersbergen and Patrick Powers

Director District #6 – Curt M. Houk

Director District #7 – Eric Klyn and Scott Pilcher

Fairfield School Board Member

Kelly Scott, Kelly Thompson, Alex Kessel, Mark Porter, Paige Novak, Tai Ward, Wade Stremsterfer and Cody Bauer

Ottumwa School Board Member

Jeremy Weller, Jan Wetrich and Becky Ingle

Pekin School Board Member

Director District #3 – Ray Fear and Mark Wittrock

Director District #5 – John J. Greiner and Katie Stanley Keith

At Large – Jared Schultz and Kortney A. Baumberger

Indian Hills Community College Trustee

Director District #1 – Beth Danowsky

Director District #4 – Lori Yates

Director District #5 – Richard J. Gaumer

Polls open on November 2nd.

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