BCSD to put auditorium expansion on the ballot in September special election

June 20, 2024
A rendering shows what an expanded auditorium could look like at Aldo Leopold Intermediate School.

A rendering shows what an expanded auditorium could look like at Aldo Leopold Intermediate School.

The Burlington Community School District will ask district residents to vote in a special election Sept. 10 on whether to allow an increase in the Voted Physical Plant and Equipment Levy that will go toward transforming an existing auditorium into a performing arts center. 

Below are some Q & A’s to help answer questions you may have about what’s on the ballot. If you have a question that is not answered below, please email michaele.niehaus@bcsds.org/

What would this revenue be used for? 

The additional PPEL funds would support the expansion of the auditorium at Aldo Leopold Intermediate School to better support our music and performing arts programs district-wide. 

The money also would be used to further bolster security and support facility maintenance throughout the district.

Why a performing arts center?

BCSD currently is without a performing arts center. 

The existing spaces at Edward Stone Middle School and Aldo where concerts, plays and musicals are held were built as junior high auditoriums for things like assemblies and therefore lack desired stage size,  acoustics, set design room and adequate lighting/seating. 

What will the expansion entail? 

Planned work would transform Aldo’s auditorium into a performing arts center, with improved stage presence and acoustics, as well as increased seating that will bring the capacity from 503 up to 678, and improved accessibility. 

The expansion would be along the current auditorium’s south wall. This would allow for seating to be installed up to about the end of the existing stage, which would be moved back further into the expanded space. 

Other features of the expansion project include the addition of a stage craft area, spotlights, a sound booth, and a concession stand.

Why has Aldo been selected as the proposed location for this expansion? 

Aldo’s location and layout make it ideal for the expansion as there are no homes immediately behind the school and the basketball hoops in the expansion zone could be easily moved. 

Why wasn’t an auditorium included in the high school renovation project?

The addition of an auditorium at the high school had been considered during the planning phase of the BHS SAVE — Secure an Advanced Vision for Education, which allows districts to bond against revenue generated via the penny sales tax — project.

Estimates made in 2022 for such a project were as follows:

  • $22-23 million for an 800-seat auditorium
  • $30 million for a 1,100-seat auditorium

This is more than three times the planned cost at Aldo.

What impact will this have on my property tax?

The question on the ballot seeks permission for the district to levy up to an additional 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation for a period of six years. 

Currently, BCSD’s VPPEL is 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. Voter approval would allow the district to increase that levy to no more than $1.34 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. 

To help put this in perspective, this increase would be the equivalent of $30 per month for a $100,000 home.

It is important to note that the actual amount levied could be revisited each of those six years and could be lower, but it would not be able to exceed the approved amount.

Also worth noting is that since 2015, BCSD’s total property tax rate has decreased $3.18 per $1,000 valuation — from $15.43 to $12.25.

How does BCSD’s PPEL compare to that of other districts across the state?

85% of Iowa school districts have a Voter-approved Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, and more than one-third of those districts have rates of $1.34 per $1,000 valuation.

If approved, how much revenue is expected to be generated by the PPEL?

The estimated increase in PPEL funds would generate an estimated $900,000 per year. 

How much would the auditorium expansion cost? 

The expansion is expected to cost between $7.5 and $8.5 million.*

*Updated estimate.