I think the district’s inconsistent statements about the effect of bond passage are at least partly responsible for the fact that members of the public seem to hold different understandings of the issue. For example, when I tweeted the article about the Minnesota school district that closed schools after telling voters it would renovate them, I quickly heard from one bond supporter who told me that “In Iowa the bond language is a legal document that cannot be altered after the fact by any admin or board,” and from another who told me that “It was clearly [our] board’s intent to have flexibility.”
Moreover, even if voters discount the district’s more enthusiastic statements (“A GO bond locks in the plan!”), they still do not have clear statements of the district’s position on several important questions, such as:
- After the bond passes, can the district completely drop a project from the list of projects in the ballot language?
- The governing statute says that if the voters pass the proposal, the district “shall issue” the bonds. Does that mean that if the bond passes, the district is legally required to issue bonds in the stated total amount ($191 million), even if it might have some freedom to reallocate the money among the listed projects?
- Does it mean that the district would have to issue the full amount of bonds, even if the legislature extends the SAVE sales tax before we need the money? (The current SAVE statute allows districts to pay off bonds with the sales tax revenue, but there could be significant transactions costs if we’re required to issue all the bonds first.)
Even if the district’s answer were “we don’t know, because the law is unclear,” that in itself would be informative. Readers: Maybe one of you will have more success in getting publicly shareable responses to those questions than I have. (I don’t feel free, as an individual board member, to share information that has come to the board in the form of advice from the district’s counsel.)
Finally: What is the cumulative effect of the district’s statements on this issue over the last nine months? Is the district being sufficiently candid? Is it being sufficiently careful about the public expectations that it’s generating? Do its statements, collectively, make you more confident that the district will treat the public respectfully as it moves forward after bond passage? Do they make you more willing to entrust the district with $191 million?