Fitting the pieces
For an Ivy Tech campus to come to Noblesville, the schools, city, residents, county and state each have a part of the puzzle
The idea is simple enough: Noblesville Schools will sell Noblesville East Middle School, 300 N. 17th St., to the county and Ivy Tech will move into the former school building and create a Hamilton County campus. The plan, however, has many moving parts and is contingent on the schools, city, county and state officials agreeing to terms as well as voters approving a public referendum, all combining to make the potential sale not so straightforward.
The completed plan carries an almost $50-million price tag. Hamilton County will pay Noblesville Schools $13.4 million for NEMS. It will then lease the building to Ivy Tech for $1. The City of Noblesville will contribute $6.5 million ($5 million to assist Ivy Tech in renovations and $1.5 million to Noblesville Schools). The schools’ referendum, which initially will seek $39.5 million, could decrease to $25 million. The state will also kick in $10 million for renovations needed at the new campus.
The main component of the deal lies with the May 7 public referendum, which will ask taxpayers to approve a bond issuance not to exceed $28 million. In order for Noblesville Schools to sell NEMS, it must have plans in place to move the students that currently go there.
“If one piece fails, it’s a lost opportunity. A lost once in a lifetime opportunity,” Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger said. “It’s the most exciting thing to happen to Noblesville and the most exciting thing to happen to Hamilton County.”
Noblesville Schools wants to sell NEMS, and its strategic plan calls for freshmen to return to an expanded high school facility. The freshman campus will transform back into a middle school, which is what it was years ago.
“We are able to expand and renovate a building with good bones and get a larger term use for less money then we’d put into the (NEMS) building,” Supt. Libbie Conner said. “It’s an effective and efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars.”
While the school system will sell the building, it will retain possession of Hare Chevrolet Field and the parking lot will be used by the district and the Boys & Girls Club. Conner added that the NEMS gymnasium would have its history preserved and Ivy Tech planned to open it and the auditorium to the community.
“Ivy Tech is very community minded,” she said. “They love the building because to them it’s in better shape than most buildings they renovate.”
In addition to selling a building in need of major renovation, Conner said the potential sale meets the district’s strategic planning goal of partnering with higher education. Noblesville High School currently offers dual credit through Ivy Tech, but a nearby campus would expand its opportunities she said. The campus would also allow Noblesville Schools to provide grades 13 and 14 – a pathway that concludes with more than a high school diploma.
“They stay right here working toward trade certification or associates degree,” Conner said. “They continue right here after school, seamlessly.”
Hamilton County was selected as a location the community college wanted to house a campus due to its growing population, which increased almost 50 percent from 2000 to 2010 (nearly 275,000 people), according to Ivy Tech Central Indiana Chancellor Kathleen Lee. She also emphasized the importance of the strong partnership with Noblesville Schools, which currently offers 20 sections onsite, and the willingness of the city to help with funding and resources.
“We expect this campus to be a full service campus with student advisement, student aide, library and a basketball team,” Lee said, adding that the science labs will allow the college to offer science courses not available at other locations.
A Hamilton County location provides residents easier access to college credits, technical certifications and associate degrees. Since 2007-2008, Ivy Tech has seen an increase of 98 percent, or nearly 5,000 students, from Hamilton County. Currently, 70 percent of courses Hamilton County students take are outside of the county. Where do Hamilton County students take Ivy Tech courses? According to Lee, only 30 percent of instructional demand is currently met by courses taught in Hamilton County; 22 percent of students take online courses; and 48 percent of students travel to other counties.
Dillinger said the biggest asset of the deal was bringing a higher education campus to the community.
“Counties all over the state are trying to get Ivy Tech,” he said. “They want to come here desperately.”
The move also has several economic benefits for Hamilton County. Dillinger said a full-service Ivy Tech campus could employ as many as 50 full-time staff and faculty. In addition to bringing jobs, it will also bring commuters to the area.
“It could serve as many as 4,600 students expanding up to 10,000 in the future. How much gas will they buy? How much will the restaurants benefits?” he asked. “How many companies might consider Hamilton County due to Ivy Tech’s skilled training classes?”
The campus would help to retrain employees and provide much-needed skills to younger people not going to college. Mayor John Ditslear said the campus would not only provide better jobs to residents, but a more skilled labor force that would make it easier for the city to attract businesses.
“We get asked about our workforce a lot,” he said. “That is important.”
Ditslear said Ivy Tech would provide opportunities to several groups – high school students, graduates and adults, adding that the campus also would allow high school students to earn dual credits. It also allows college students the opportunity to live and work in Noblesville while earning credits, degrees and job certifications. Like Hamilton County, Ditslear said the higher education campus would make it easier to attract businesses and provide the city with an economic impact.
The average cost of a four-year degree at a public institution is $76,181. Ivy Tech charges $111.53 per credit hour. Lee said the campus would provide first- and second-year general education core classes required for all degree work, which is transferable to all public institutions in the state. Degree programs are based on regional need with focus on STEM programming, such as manufacturing, pre-engineering and other areas identified by regional employers.
“We’re very well balanced between the technical side and courses that will transfer,” Lee said.
High School Main Campus
Capacity: The main campus would expand its capacity from 2,200 to 3,200 plus for grades 9 through 12.
Additions: Two-story, secure front entrance for administration, guidance, student services, performing arts and classrooms; two-story freshman center classroom space; and gym and physical education locker space. Work will also reconfigure the LGI, administration, guidance, student services spaces into classroom space for more efficient use of existing space.
Site work: Additional parking and bus zone
Cost: $27 million
Capacity: Expanding and remodeling the freshman campus to a middle school will increase capacity from 900 to 1,200 for grades 6 through 8.
Additions: Two-story eighth-grade addition and two-story sixth-grade addition. Work would also reconfigure/remodel the cafeteria, physical education spaces, wrestling space and health rooms.
Site work: Move tennis courts to vacant area south of White River Elementary School and baseball field from Noblesville East Middle School site, parking and bus zone.
Cost: $12.5 million
How much will bringing Ivy Tech to Noblesville cost taxpayers? The projected cost is $60 a year for homeowners of a $200,000 residence. The total cost will be divided into three areas: all Hamilton County taxpayers and those within Noblesville schools and city limits.
Hamilton County – The county will issue an $11.9-million bond for 20 years. This equates to $920,000 in debt service per year or $0.0053 tax rate impact based on the 2012 assessed value. For a $100,000 home, this is a projected tax rate increase of $1.74; $5.18 for a $200,000 home; and $8.63 for a $300,000 home.
Noblesville – The city will issue a $6 million 20-year bond. This adds $475,000 in annual debt service or a $0.0205 tax rate impact based on current assessed value. The tax rate impact is projected at $6.71 for a $100,000 home; $20.04 for a $200,000; and $33.36 for a $300,000 home.
Schools – The school board must first decide the referendum amount. If the lower cost of $25 million is selected, its projected tax rate impact is $0.09 per $100 of assessed value, or $11.79 for $100,000 homes; $35.19 for $200,000; and $58.59 for a $300,000 home. The $28 million project includes $3 million to refinance existing bonds, thus saving the taxpayer in the long run. Projected costs are $0.10 per $100 of assessed value, or $8.19 for $100,000 homes; $24.44 for $200,000; and $40.69 for a $300,00 home.
Saving money – All of the tax rates are based on a 4.5-percent interest rate, however, current market trends project that amount to be closer to 3.5 percent or possibly lower. The Dept. of Local Government Finance requires that a conservative number is planned so the total cannot exceed the published amount. The projected amounts are also based on this year’s assessed value and include no growth. In 2012, Noblesville increased its assessed value by 0.18 percent.
Tonight – The Noblesville Common Council will vote to approve its portion of the interlocal agreement.
Feb. 5 – The Noblesville School Board will vote on the 1028 project, which begins the referendum process. The meeting will set the referendum amount at $25 or $28 million. The referendum can be stopped at any point after it begins if other organizations within the deal decline the agreement.
Feb. 6 – The Hamilton County Council will vote to approve its part of the interlocal agreement. Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger said council members Meredith Carter, Jim Belden and Steve Schwartz had committed yes votes. Council members Brad Beaver, Rick McKinney, Paul Ayers and Amy Massillamany are currently undecided.
Feb. 7 to May 7 – Several public forums and informative meetings will take place as the schools, city and county attempt to gain support for the project.
May 7 – Special referendum vote on the Noblesville Schools’ bond. This is when the public will have the final say in bringing an Ivy Tech campus to Noblesville.