Sunday, January 8, 2017

School board agenda for Tuesday, January 10

This week, among other things, the board will hear an update on the district’s progress on the issue of seclusion enclosures (previous posts here and here), we’ll hear an update about state legislative issues that affect the schools, and we’ll consider whether to adopt the latest version of the draft policy articulating the district’s weighted resource allocation model—that is, its effort to funnel more resources toward higher-need schools.

At the work session, we’ll discuss how to go forward with the plans to ask the voters for bonding authority to fund projects in the district’s facilities master plan. (Info here.) The board chair, Chris Lynch, has proposed that we initially ask for authority only for projects in the first two or three years of the plan, which would mean asking the voters to authorize about $75-95 million in bonds. The remaining projects could be funded either by subsequent bond votes or via the SAVE tax if the legislature eventually extends that tax.

The board will also discuss whether there should be changes in the facilities plan as we consider what an initial bond proposal would include. A (presumably non-exhaustive) list of potential topics appears here.

The full meeting agendas are here and here; please chime in with a comment about anything that catches your attention.


Karen W said...

I think commenters have touched on this before, but the DE has posted results of school bond elections from 2008-09 through the 2015-16 school years. For reference, it looks like the largest school bond passed was for $55 million by the Ames school district. Cedar Falls tried to pass a bond for $118 million, which failed with only 42.1% voting yes. On the third try, Cedar Falls passed a bond for $32 million.

Karen W said...
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Karen W said...

And, just because I had to look it up, here are GO Bond projects listed on the current FMP for completion in Fall 2019 and 2020. Fall 2019 (about $68 million total): Garner, new North Liberty elementary, Lincoln, Mann, SEJH, and Liberty (outdoor athletics, not classroom addition). Fall 2020: (about $29 million): Shimek, Wood, West (phase 2).

The administration has a few alternate proposals, that may require a change in the order of projects. At just under $44 million, hold a bond vote on the following projects: new North Liberty elementary, SEJH, Garner, and Lincoln. At just under $108 million, hold a bond vote on the following projects: new North Liberty elementary, NCJH, SEJH, West (phase 2), Liberty (athletic only), and City (athletic and classroom addition).

Chris said...

Thanks, Karen. In case anyone's curious, here are the school bond results from the ICCSD that I could find on the Auditor's website, which appears to go back to the 1970s.

Feb. 11, 2003
Bond amount: 39M ($51M in today’s dollars)
For: Building Tate High School, North Central Junior High, Van Allen Elementary, plus unspecified improvements elsewhere
Result: Passed with 71% of the vote (60% needed)
Turnout: 20%

Sept. 12, 1995
Bond amount: 4.5M ($7.1M in today’s dollars)
For: Building Wickham Elementary
Result: Passed with 70% of the vote (60% needed)
Turnout: 10.8%

Dec. 8, 1992 (two school bond proposals on the ballot)
Bond #1 amount: $7.9M (13.5M in today’s dollars)
For: building and furnishing a new elementary school building* as well as new classrooms and improvements at City High School, Northwest Junior High School, Southeast Junior High School and Grant Wood Elementary School
Result: Passed, with 64% voting yes
Bond #2 amount: $4.7M ($8M in today’s dollars)
For: constructing and furnishing an auditorium at West High School and a new cafeteria and remodeling and furnishing of band and orchestra rooms at City High School
Result: Failed, with 57% voting yes (60% needed)
Turnout: 21%

May 12, 1992
Bond amount: $7.9M ($13.5M in today’s dollars)
For: "building and equipping a new elementary school building and classroom addition and renovation projects at City High, Northwest Junior High, Southeast Junior High, and Grant Wood Elementary"
Result: Failed, with 57% voting yes (60% needed)
Turnout: 22%

October 15, 1991
Bond amount: $11M ($19M in today’s dollars)
For: "(1) an auditorium at West High School; (2) a ten classroom addition, cafeteria and kitchen at City High School; (3) remodeling and expansion of the performing arts areas at City High School; (4) a seven classroom addition and renovation project at South East Junior High School; and (5) a new elementary school building"
Result: Failed, with 52% voting yes (60% needed)
Turnout: 21%

I did not include tax levy votes (for example, votes on PPEL or on the Revenue Purpose Statement), but you can find them at the Auditor’s site, too.

Chris said...

Of course, there are other ways to compare bond proposals, too. I suspect we’ll hear many different measures discussed. For example, proponents of the bond will talk about how much it will *increase* taxes, while opponents will talk about the total impact on the tax bill. (Those are two different things, because the district has indebtedness that is about to expire, so if we don’t do any bonding, the tax rate will decrease.) Proponents will point out that our tax rate is lower than that of other large Iowa school districts; opponents will point out that our assessed home values are higher. Etc. Just by looking at bond amounts and election results in other district, or even in the past in our own district, you get no sense of how much the bonds affected actual tax bills. But I’m not denying that $75-95 million dollars is a very big bond.

One thing it’s hard to see in looking at our district’s previous bond votes is any correlation between size and success. Some big bond proposals have passed, some small ones have failed. This is at least arguably an indication that people’s votes are driven by the merits of the proposed list of projects. Similarly, the past bond votes don’t seem consistent with the idea that a bond needs to have “something for everyone” (that is, for all parts of the district). But again, I’d be reluctant to draw any firm conclusions from such a small number of data points spread out over so many years.

Mary M said...

Chris, staffing expenses go hand in hand buildings to be staffed. Before proceeding to finalize the FMP and bond vote, please get a firm commitment from ICCSD's administration about whether the planned facilities--new and old--can afford to be staffed long term.

It would be a shame and seemingly dishonest to renovate and build buildings only for the public to be told later that budget cuts to the arts, music, foreign languages, busing, etc. must occur and that schools (even those renovated with bond proceeds) will close.

Also, please consider asking Mr. Murley for an unequivocal statement in writing that the proposed weighted resource allocation model can be funded long term. I understood that it could not be, and if that's the case, I would like the board to address this now, before a bond vote (and before staffing next year), rather than pushing it down the road for future board members to have to make cuts and declare school closings.

Anonymous said...

I think the Board needs to revise the FMP for recent boundary changes before it jumps into a bond discussion. Now that Kirkwood will go to NCJH and Alexander to NWJH, does SEJH need its addition? If NL will get a new elementary, is the Garner addition still necessary? I'd suggest bringing in your thoughts on making elementary schools more efficient (pairing schools, etc.), but I know that's asking too much.

A huge part of passing a bond will be selling the public on the FMP. For that to happen, the FMP needs to be aligned with the new boundaries.

Karen W said...

Chris, I think you're right that it's hard to draw any conclusions from the data points we have. John Deeth says the rule of thumb is an automatic 20% no vote on bond issues. I suppose after that, you need to convince a large number of remaining voters that, whatever the size of the bond, the projects are necessary (needs, not wants--maybe?) and affordable.

Noppity Nope Nope said...

I refuse to support ANY bond, of any size, as long as Murley is superintendent. He has created a mess in this district and I don't trust him farther than I can throw him.
He says one thing, (or even better, stays silent on important issues) does another. Typical politician, only out for himself. I can't believe this board extended his contract and gave him a fat raise!
This man hasn't even completed the one thing he promised he would when he got hired 6 years ago - No PhD, with none in sight.
We have been robbed and I refuse to give this gunman one more dollar than he has already stolen.

Chris said...

MaryM -- I don't think there's any way anyone could make a firm statement about what can be funded long-term, since so much depends on who controls the legislature and the governorship. I assume that it's quite possible that we might have to consider raising our class size "ceilings" if funding won't support the current ones. Whether we want to abandon efforts to give more funding-per-student to high-need schools than to other schools, though, is a board decision, not a superintendent decision. In any event, with our without a weighted resource model, funding constraints could conceivably mean that we're forced to squeeze more kids into each room, with the effect that we would be using fewer rooms overall. Again, just not sure there's any way to predict that for the long- or even medium-term.

Anon (5:16) -- Yes, I agree that we definitely need to reassess the current FMP in light of our new boundaries before deciding what goes into the bond.

Karen W said...

Press-Citizen says the largest school bond passed in Iowa was for $83 million by the Ankeny schools in spring 2007, which predates the information available on the DE website.

Anonymous said...

Was there a source cited for the Press-Citizen's $83M bond in Ankeny? Weird coincidence that that Hansel worked in Ankeny before Iowa City.

Amy said...

Well, the reduced bond is certainly a saner ask, but yes, it is still very large. I can't remember how things really were between the board/admin and the community, say, 15 years ago, but it seems to me there was more trust then, too -- in the last several years we've had all the jerking-around with the school area boundaries, and the closings/openings, and Steve's adventures in Chicago, and of course Jeff's problems. Tuyet's, too. And transportation issues. So I think it will be difficult.

I asked Steve today for where we could find the comprehensive pitch to the board for the bond, and he pointed me to board docs from tonight; I'll have a look this weekend. But I really don't think the case has been made to the public: about the district's needs, the soundness of the plan, or the trustworthiness of the board/admin when it comes to carrying this out. It's a university community and people are more than usually literate here, but mostly what I've seen so far is an attempt at sales and ThoughtExchange-style "community involvement", rather than sharing information and asking for real input. (Except here.) I don't think it's a community that responds all that well to "I'll shoot this dog" tactics, either, which I've seen around -- you know, terrible things xyz will happen to the children if you don't go fill in the dot for the bond.

I appreciate the honesty on medium/long-range funds.

I'm also wondering why we're looking to borrow money for athletics when we're still having trouble getting some of the kids to and from school. Can we not just hand the athletic kids frisbees and tell them to play some pickup ultimate? Go for a run? Play an Insanity video? Do the other things people do when they really can't afford expensive sporting kit, which it sounds like is us?