Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Update on the bond proposal

The board tonight voted 5-2 to ask the voters for roughly $188 million in borrowing to fund its facilities plan through 2023. It also approved some changes to the plan. The list of projects is in the bottom (greenish) portion of the fourth column of this chart. I voted against the proposal, for the reasons I discussed here. Board member Phil Hemingway also voted against the proposal.

I’ll be posting more about the bond issue as time goes on. The one striking feature of tonight’s discussion was that the board’s proposal was based on a substantially revised set of building capacity numbers. From the time the district adopted the facilities plan in 2013 until this evening, the plan had been based on capacity numbers calculated by a consultant, BLDD, which were supposed to have been the result of careful measurements of all aspects of the buildings, rather than simply multiplying the number of rooms by a number of kids (as the district had done in the past). Tonight, we were presented with a new, very different set of building capacity numbers, also supposed to have been calculated on the basis of careful measurements and on the buildings’ intended use.

I agree that the BLDD numbers were flawed. But this new set of numbers—the final version of which we received less than twenty-four hours before tonight’s meeting—has not been vetted sufficiently to make it the basis of a $188 million dollar proposal. For one thing, we received unclear answers about whether the new numbers reflect our anticipated ability to staff the classrooms, whether they reflect the weighted resource allocation model, and whether they reflect a building’s current use. And the numbers themselves raise questions:

  • Under the plan as it existed until tonight, the district told the public that Alexander Elementary had a capacity of 500. In fact, as soon as the enrollment rose into the 400s, the school added two temporaries and converted three non-classroom spaces into classrooms. So the new numbers will recognize that the old numbers seriously overstated Alexander’s capacity, right? But actually they say that the addition of four classrooms will result in a 575-student capacity.

  • Under the plan as it existed until tonight, the district had been telling people for years that Garner Elementary had a capacity of 445 and needed a 175-seat addition to bring its capacity up to 620. The new plan deletes the seven-classroom addition and simply adds a music room and an art room—yet Garner’s “new” capacity will be 633.

  • Under the plan as it existed until tonight, the district told the public that South East Junior High could hold 764 students, and that it needed an addition so it could hold 854. Under the new plan, South East still gets two new classrooms, but its “new” capacity will be 750—lower than we told people it was before any addition. Now the district can justify the addition that was already in the plan before this justification was created.

  • Under the plan as it existed until tonight, the district told the public that Wickham Elementary’s capacity was 428. Under the new plan, Wickham gets a new art room and a new music room—and its “new” capacity will be 575.

  • Under the plan as it existed until tonight, the district told the public that Kirkwood Elementary’s capacity was 306, and that it needed six new classrooms so it could hold 456 students. Under the new plan, Kirkwood receives only two new classrooms, plus an art room and a music room. Yet its “new” capacity is 468—even higher than we said it would be with six new classrooms.

  • Under the new capacity calculations, planned elementary capacity in the North Corridor exceeds projected enrollment by almost 400 seats—a bad sign for convincing voters that we need to spend $19 million to build a new elementary school there. I think the new elementary school is necessary—but if we ignore our capacity numbers and enrollment projections whenever we think we know better, why should voters trust them at all?

  • District-wide, under the new capacity calculations, the planned elementary capacity exceeds projected enrollment by over 1600 students. But don’t worry, the administration would never propose more school closings.

Maybe the district finally has the capacity numbers right this time. But I came out of tonight’s discussion even more convinced that it’s a mistake to rely on our capacity numbers and enrollment projections to commit to additions (as opposed to renovations) too far in advance of seeing whether we actually need them.


Anonymous said...

I am so tired of their silly reindeer games. Why is it so hard to just use facts and be honest?

Anonymous said...

Up until last night, I was willing to vote YES on the bond. Not anymore. How can anyone trust the information this board and administration produces when they have to keep changing numbers in order to keep doing what they really want to do; which is add on to City and SEJH when there is no need? Before that they had to come up with a "need" for art and music rooms in order to add on to places that don't need it like Lemme and Borlaug.

After last night, the vote NO campaign just got off to a serious head start.

Be honest with us. Use the professionally calculated capacity numbers which were fair to all parts of the district; even if they might have underestimated capacity a bit. But these numbers inflate capacity in the West and the North while deflating capacity in the East in order to justify additions there that are not needed.


Anonymous said...

Who are you kidding Jenny - you were always voting "no."

Anonymous said...

Who is Jenny? If you are referring to that last anon comment my name is not Jenny. Just another well informed voter disgusted by the tactics of this district's administrators and board majority. There are many reasonable people on the east side that can see the lack of need for additions all over the district too that are now disguised as art and music rooms.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how Duane can sleep at night after coming up with these new capacity numbers on a whim because admin/Lynch were called out on how poorly their plan - as of last week - aligned with the new boundaries and new capacity projections.

Their solution is to change capacity numbers and keep their plan largely the same except where there was truly no way to justify some large additions. Unbelieveable!

Anonymous said...

It's hard to keep up with these changing numbers. Why did Murley use brand new capacity numbers right before the vote? Was there a memo that explained this that I missed?

Anonymous said...

Before spending money to build, how about cleaning up the house? Bond not worth it if the foundation is bad.


Anonymous said...

Mary Kate Hayek sent a letter supporting the bond proposal to the ICCSD with a number of signatures. I suggest contacting those who signed and letting them know how you feel.

By the way, the signatures include "Every Student, Any School" and that is not accurate. She had no permission to include my kids as representing support of the FMP plan. Makes me wonder what she was telling the people below. Don't let her side be the only one they hear.

Signatures included:
Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce
Iowa City Area Development Group
Iowa City Downtown District
Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association
Every Student, Any School

Johnson County Legislators
Sen. Joe Bolkom
Sen. Bob Dvorsky
Rep. Dave Jacoby
Rep. Vicki Lensing
Rep. Mary Mascher
Rep. Amy Nielsen

Area elected officials:
Rockne Cole
Terry Dickens
Mitch Gross
Mike Haverkamp
Chris Hoffman
Jim Lane
John Lundell
Susan Mims
Rod Sullivan
Pauline Taylor
John Thomas

High School Principals:
John Bacon
Scott Kibby
Gregg Shoultz

Local business leaders:
John Balmer
Jeff Disterhoft
Charlie Funk
Ravi and Raj Patel
Dwight Seegmiller
Jerry Waddilove

FMP taskforce members:
DaLayne Williams
Danelle Knoche
Alex Taylor

Other individuals:
Shawn Eyestone
Mary Kate Pilcher Hayek and Matt Hayek
Brigette and Adam Ingersoll
Amy Johnson
Samantha Karrel and David Wieseneck
Kate and Joe Moreland
Leslie and Mark Nolte
Jessica and Josh Schamberger
Kelly Gallagher Terrill and Damon Terrill

Media contact person: Mary Kate Pilcher Hayek; cell 319-321-6412; email marykatepilcher@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Anon 2/1/17 @10:20am--"Every Student, Any School" is the name of their group that was VERY supportive of the bussing for balance scheme and were all big supporters of Paul. I believe they have a webpage if you google it.

Jenny said...

Anon 9:05

This IS Jenny and that was not my comment. I note you used anonymous when accusing me. Nice. Is this you taking the high road? Not sure your low road will help rally support for the bond. I think we all want to see a facilities plan based on accurate capacity and enrollment numbers. That is a reasonable thing to want. That is how we make sure the kids' needs are being met. I'm mystified by these capacity numbers that showed up a day before the board meeting. How can Kirkwood have the capacity being stated when they currently have around 330 kids and are using two trailers? With these new "capacity numbers," it looks like Kirkwood might continue to have capacity issues. That is a concern and I would like to know more. We need to figure this out.

Anonymous said...

I love the magical math the district administrators are using. I wish it worked when I needed to pass my high school algebra class. I hope it fails during the bond vote as badly as I did in high school math class.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10:20 a.m. All of those letter writers proclaim how "we" as a community worked together on the plan and then overnight, Murley and crew & five board members change it. TREC/Roosevelt looks done for. There's no justification for new capacity numbers. Numerous other changes. Why?

Every Student Any School group doesn't represent my student either.

Anonymous said...

Who does the district plan to move out of Southeast Junior High?

Are boundaries for any schools changing?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:31---Alexander will be moving out of SEJH beginning in the 2017/2018 school year. There shouldn't be any other boundary changes until 2019 but those shouldn't affect SEJH dramatically. Lake ridge moves into Alexander district in 2019 so they would be pulled as well.

Anonymous said...

I have serious concerns about Chris Lynch, the school board president, and the majority of the board members. This post highlights the holes in the latest version of the bond proposal and what I find most alarming is the fact these changes were given to board members 24 hours before they were supposed to vote on it!

What kind of district administration and board president wait until the very last minute to give NEW information to board members, then expect them to vote on it right then? You can't tell me the majority of the board members even had a chance to look at the proposal. I find it alarming board members regularly vote on last minute items that create district policy and allocate spending without even a minute of discussion. This is not sound business practice. Before you get your underwear in a knot, since the board is asking for almost 200 million dollars (not counting what they have already spent on lines of credit that will need to be paid back) from taxpayers, they absolutely need to be thought of as running a business.

This is not the first time I have witnessed the board president ask for a vote on items with no real notice to board members, and it is not the first time the majority have silently, without question, followed Lynch's lead like sheep. At this point, I don't see the need for human board members at all. Robots can perform the Yes Man role they are playing and there will be no need for the drama of board elections at all.

It is alarming to me that a record-setting bond proposal is voted on so nonchalantly, while the use of Seclusion Boxes (the one decision that by state law MUST be made by school board members) has been pushed off onto a sham committee and will not be addressed until the end of the school year.

This is exactly the reason I will not support the bond. I cannot fathom why anyone would have an ounce of confidence in the judgement of this administration, the school board president and majority of board members. The bond deserves more than 24 hours of notice and a public discussion before it is approved by the board.

Anonymous said...

There are some HUGE changes that were given to board members the night before the meeting.

Four classrooms gone from Borlaug.

Seven classroom Garner addition gone.

Trec aka Roosevelt gone.

How did the board members even have time to think about these enormous changes?

More stuff gone. Physical Plan guy Duane changing capacity. And so on and so forth.

Anonymous said...

Not only that Anon 9:46PM, but they take away some large additions from several schools by changing building capacity numbers practically overnight!

Yet with Borlaug addition gone, Garner addition gone, Roosevelt gone, Lemme addition gone (well gone except just about every elementary school will get Cadillac art and music rooms on this bond and hence two extra classrooms) there is still hardly a dent in the size of the bond.

Because the East Side Mafia controls the board majority, instead of taking away other more highly valued additions (City/SEJH) they lowered capacity at SEJH overnight so that they could keep those additions justified so there will be room for Wickham later (& Van Allen will get the boot out of Liberty to West).

Although it will be a "surprise" that Liberty is seriously overcapacity much earlier than anticipated, it shouldn't be to anybody with half a brain. This is because the November 2016 boundary projections only included final platted and county filed new subdivisions (a very misleading tactic that favors slower growth areas with "new" subdivisions filed a long time ago that takes a long time to fill in such as East Iowa City, and can be used to forecast slower growth in North Liberty because known and even started subdivisions like North Ridge and Dahnavan Estastes were NOT counted. It is very poor practice to only use final county platted subdivisions for growth projections in a rapidly growing city like North Liberty. Quite despicable maneuvers and very misleading!

If you raise capacity in one area of the district, it should be raised everywhere. If the professional BLDD capacity determinations were overestimates of capacity, it should have been raised everywhere and not just where it suits the purposes of the East side controlled board.

amy said...

Honest to god, if this were my blog, and it's not, I'd simply block all posts that perseverate on imaginary east-west gang wars. Every last one.

I'm curious: do the board members who voted yes really believe this has a snowball's chance in hell of passing? Because clearly it's not just the public who's in the dark; it's the board, too, and god only knows if the admin has any idea what the real plan is. Or whether one exists.

Ten to one nobody who employed the consultant actually knows how they come up with those enrollment estimates. I'd very much like to see the board request a visit from the consultants so that they can explain their numbers, if not their methods, publicly. Also, what are we paying them, again?

Anonymous said...

I am voting no, and I managed to talk everyone around me to vote no, even the ones without school age children. I have to say, it didn't take much persuasion at all. I simply pointed out, one, this is a huge amount of money. A very large check we are writing. And two, the board voted yes based on enrollment numbers they received not more than one day ago. That was it. Every single person I spoke to decided to vote no at that point.

Board, did you really think we are that stupid?

Anonymous said...

The important thing with school bond issues is to get the "No" voters to show up and vote!

Otherwise yes voters can win despite the community not being supportive of spending SO MUCH MONEY. Cause a yes vote costs everyone money including those without children.

Anonymous said...

Is it 60% of all voters or 60% of people who show up to vote?

Anonymous said...

8:13 60% of the people who show up to vote. Historically school votes don't get much participation. I think if 25-30% of the voters actually vote it would be considered a large turnout.