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Thursday, March 30, 2017

School board election preview

Karen W. at the Education in Iowa blog has a new post up previewing this September’s 2017 school board election (and bond vote) in our district. Check it out.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do we know if Kirschling and Lynch plan to run again? What about you Chris?

Anonymous said...

Why does the bond need its very own PAC? Is it in that much trouble already?

Karen W said...

Anonymous at 10:21--the bond needs its own PAC because the school district can provide information and encourage voters to turn out, but cannot advocate for passage of the bond.

Anonymous said...

Is it common practice for external groups to form PACs to help support bond passage? If providing information about the bond and encouraging voter turnout is insufficient to secure the 60% vote needed for passage, then maybe there are problems with how the bond has been structured. Maybe political groups are regularly organized to help push through measures like this (and especially ones this big?) and I’m just not aware.

I also can’t help but wonder about the role that developers play in all of this, too, looking at the names of those involved.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that no one wanted to form a PAC to improve the drastic decline in educational performance which has happened under Murley's watch, or to eliminate the pattern of retaliation against IEP kids which exists, or to otherwise improve the basic performance of our schools. But when something is proposed which could make a lot of money for private industry, lots of folks want to jump on the bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

How can we find out who is contributing to the PAC - is that public information?

Anonymous said...

Karen W at 12:47 the school district is doing more than providing information. Chris, Brian, and Paul are marketing the bond and providing misinformation like used car salesmen with Murley along for the ride. Murley stands right beside them and doesn't correct them.

We should start a list of all the stuff they are promising.

Karen W said...

Anonymous at 1:58 PM. PAC contributions are public information, but it looks like the first report isn't due until 5 days prior to the election. Another report will be due Jan. 19th of 2018, which should show any contributions made after the first report is due.

Anonymous said...

The committee chairperson of One Community - One Bond is listed as Kate Moreland who used to work for the ICCSD school district in public relations and now works for the Iowa City Area Development Group. (Isn't the superintendent on the board of this group?) Her address is listed as 120 East Washington St, Iowa City, the same address as the Hayek law firm.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question: Chris Liebig has posted repeatedly that his position on the board doesn't trump his right to free speech even if in violation of states board policy (and perhaps state law). Wouldn't the other board members be afforded the same free speech rights to support and advocate for the passage of the bond.

Chris said...

Anonymouses: It is certainly true that all board members are free to speak their minds about the bond proposal, and people are free to raise and spend money for that purpose (subject to state laws, which are themselves subject to the Constitution). There are state laws and regulations prohibiting the use of public resources to campaign on a bond issue, but as I understand it, they wouldn’t prevent a board member from speaking in favor of the bond at a PTO meeting held on school grounds. There are more detailed discussions of what the state law forbids and permits here and here.

Chris said...

Anonymous (7:40 am): I am not planning to run for another term. (I can't speak for the others.) I do expect to be active in one way or another, and to blog, during the time leading up to the election.

Anonymous said...

Chris Liebig, Please run again! You have been a great asset to the board! You've been doing a great job!

Anonymous said...

I am confused on the actual numbers for the bond and what the personal tax impact would be if we pass this bond - maybe someone can clarify. Looking at a powerpoint from iccsd it shows the following:

Bond Authorization $1.96 per $1000 assessed value (okay - I get this if I have a $250k add $490 per year in property taxes)

Then it shows the following subtraction which makes it look like the net tax impact of passing the bond would actually be $0.93 (using the $250k house would be $232.50):

Debt Expiring -$0.53
Healthy Cash Reserves -$0.45
Property Valuation Growth -$0.05
Real Tax Impact $0.93

The debt expiring item would happen anyways, correct, or is this dependent on the bond passing? What is the cash reserves - just paying off some of it with money they already have? There is a big difference between $1.96 and $0.93 per $1000 assessment. I can't tell is this is just propaganda to make it look good or if these are legit numbers.

Chris said...

Anonymous (10:13 am): You’re right that there is salesmanship being built into those numbers. (This board sometimes feels more like a public relations agency for the administration than an oversight board.) The promotions for the bond proposal will talk only about how much your taxes will go up if it passes—that’s the dollar figure they’ll tell you—they won’t point out that your taxes will go down if it does not pass. You're right that the expiring debt will happen regardless of whether the bond passes or fails, and (I believe?) the same is true of the decrease in cash reserve levy. I’ll eventually post more about the numbers.

My concerns about the bond are primarily that it overcommits the district to projects that we may not end up needing. I’m lucky enough that I can afford the tax cost of it, but not everyone is in that position. In any event, people are entitled to know the real tax consequences of passage.

The PowerPoint that Anonymous is referring to is here.

arial said...

Brian Kirschling said somewhere(on facebook I think), that he is not running again.

Anonymous said...

PAC aside, I do think it’s fair to recognize – especially with so much building – that there will be relative winners and losers should the bond pass. And, that the winners may not be perfectly upfront about their motivations for supporting the bond. One relative winner could be anyone who stands to gain from development on the edges of town, where new schools will further support growth. I’m okay with thinking about, and possibly voting for, a plan that will help solve capacity issues in the district. But I’m not okay with being pushed in a possibly disingenuous way by folks with so much to gain financially. John Moreland and Arlington Development can probably get along just fine without my tax dollars subsidizing their profits.

Anonymous said...

Question to the previous comment - I struggle with the same concerns and questions about growth. With that said, I struggle with finding viable alternatives to building new schools on the selected locations. Seems to me the only other options to address the growing capacity issues, particularly in NL, would be adding onto schools that are already too big or finding feasible alternative locations that don't seem to exist. What other solutions do you have?

Anonymous said...

To Anon April 3, 2017 at 10:21 AM: unfortunately Chris Liebig set a precedent for PAC involvement in school district issues when he formed a PAC to save Hoover. Maybe that's where the idea came from.

Anonymous said...

Is Kate Moreland related to John Moreland? Kate is married to Joe Moreland, attorney at the Hayek firm. I have been unable to find any relation to John Moreland, the developer.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 1:19: I don't have solutions, and I don't think they probably exist. What I hope is that community members are allowed to critically assess arguments for (and against) the bond, in a way that considers what proponents (and opponents) might have to gain personally from its passage (rejection). I've already seen these conversations go down the rabbit hole of "If you don't vote for the bond, you must not care about education," which is really unfortunate. I think sometimes our community gets caught up in flag waving, and there isn't space to be critical, in a good way.

Karen W said...

I disagree that political activity and engagement in school elections should be characterized as "unfortunate." PAC reporting requirements create transparency about who is running the PAC, who is contributing to the PAC, and how the money is spent.

A PAC was formed to pass the bond in 2003 that funded Tate, NCJH, and Van Allen. A PAC was formed to pass the school infrastructure sales tax in 2007. A PAC was formed to pass the RPS vote in early 2013. Maybe any one or all of these are the source of the idea for One Community - One Bond, too.

Karen W said...

One Community - One Bond has posted a list of initial supporters (click "see more" under Story to see the list). The election preview post has been updated with other social media links for One Community - One Bond.

Anonymous said...

I see Waddilove connected with Southgate Development and Kobrin Development is on the list of supporters. So is John Balmer connected with Plumbers Supply.

Anonymous said...

Chris, can you offer what the rationale is for the timeline of projects to be completed under the bond if it passes? For instance, Tate is one of the last projects on the list (they will be getting a gym as they don't have one now) but NCJH is getting a 2nd gym before them. Alexander is one of the last projects to be completed (additional classroom space) but they are already using temp buildings and have 3 classes being held in the library however Lincoln is getting a new art and music room ahead of this. And How did WHS get new tennis courts already ahead of schools that need HVAC?

Chris said...

Anonymous (6:59 pm) — I can’t speak for the board members who adopted that time line. I agree with you that the time line does not appear to reflect any kind of sensible prioritization of the projects based on need or urgency. My sense is that it was all about marketing the bond proposal. First, I think the board is pursuing a “something for everyone” approach to the bond, and so wanted to make sure the projects that were bond-dependent would be spread out geographically. Second, I think the board chose to spend existing funds on projects that might have less popular appeal, so the projects listed in the bond would look more compelling. From that point of view (which I don’t share), it’s better to put air conditioning into the bond than tennis courts or restroom renovations at the physical plant.

Even by its own terms, that approach is short-sighted. The board may have spread the bond-funded projects out geographically, but the result is that the “future needs” are concentrated in the North Corridor. Once the projects listed in the bond are completed, there will be very little left to entice Iowa City’s east side—historically the part of the district with the largest number of voters—into supporting a bond for those future projects.

In general, I think it’s a better long-term strategy to appeal to voters with arguments based on the necessity of the listed projects, rather than with the “your school will get x” argument—especially since a bond referendum is likely to bring out many voters who do not have kids in the schools.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick response Chris! I guess I would be more inclined to vote for a "needs/necessity"based bond over a combined "wants and needs" bond. I'm planning on voting no on the bond for the reasons I spoke of above in the post you responded to. I just can't get passed the timeline of which projects will be completed. I wish they would have gotten community input on the timeline as well. I would have liked to see a smaller bond with only "needs" based projects on it and I wouldn't have cared if all the "needs" were in one area or another if that's where the money needed to be spent. Thanks again!