Saturday, September 2, 2017

No more temporaries!—er, never mind

When the district debuted its PowerPoint presentation about the bond, it contained a slide titled “No more Temporaries,” declaring:

It wasn’t long, though, before that slide was deleted from the presentation. Now the presentation promises only the “reduction of temporary classrooms.” Even the district’s own materials have to concede that kids will still be in temporaries after the entire $191 million is spent.

Where is this most likely? First, in the North Corridor. The district’s enrollment projections show virtually no growth in elementary enrollment in the area around Liberty High even ten years out. But in fact, in the time since our demographers made the projections, final platted developments including over two thousand units of housing have been filed in Coralville, as well as a smaller number in North Liberty. Drive around there and you’ll see it happening.

Second, at Alexander Elementary. Alexander is currently using four temporary classrooms and has already converted three interior common spaces into classrooms. And its enrollment is projected to grow. The bond plan gives it a four-classroom addition seven years from now.

Third, Hills Elementary. Hills currently has eight temporary rooms—four being used as classrooms and four as resource rooms. It receives nothing at all from the bond plan.

Is it too much to ask that after spending $191 million on facilities—including on three sets of blue-chip high school athletic facilities—we wouldn’t still have kids in temporary classrooms?


Peter said...

Sounds like the bond isn't big enough. But at least the language is flexible enough to allow the board to make some adjustments as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

Can't build more than 1 new elementary school. That is a major problem.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:01, the idea was never to build enough elementary school here it is needed most. It has always been pouring resources into City High. The Bond is just a way to collect district wide "donation" and spend it as much as they can on the East side.

Anonymous said...

The legislature is expected to extend the sales tax in the next few years giving a district like Iowa City access to hundreds of millions of dollars to spend so they should only bond for essentials now, including building classroom seats for children in the right places, which they are probably not doing. The bond is a mess.

Peter said...

Anon 9:28: the idea of the FMP is to create equitable facilities across the district. Pre-bond, tens of millions of district dollars, including those from the east side, were spent building an appropriately beautiful and modern new high school for our neighbors to the north. Now it's time to air condition City High, bring back the shop to City High, and give City High a gym big enough to hold an all school assembly. So I don't know what you mean by "donation."
Anon 9:49: any thought that starts with "the legislature is expected," is questionable to me. But if the legislature does do us right and extend the sales tax, etc, the school board can use those dollars to finish the FMP and won't have to sell the rest of the bonds. They will be sold in traunches as needed.

The school district is about as close as we can get to a real democratic system. Chris always expresses concerns that I appreciate and most are certainly justified. That's why I supported his election to the board with my wallet and my vote. But this bond will be overseen by our elected representatives, and we will have at least three chances to elect more or different ones over the course of the bond. It's time to invest in these buildings and we do have the power to oversee the use of the funds.

Anonymous said...

Peter, "equitable" in your context really means "I want what you have" The thing is: the northern part of the district has brand new schools because that is where the development has been and will be, and that is where there is real demand and a lot of young families live. Iowa City turned down the mall and missed out big time and now they are trying to catch up by taxing the rest of the district and build up in the East where there is not a need for additional capacity. It is pretty obvious that FMP is based on inflated projections to the IC part and once the bond passes, with a majority on the board from the IC side, they will modify the FMP and pour even more resources to the east.

If there is any doubt, just do the simple math: some kids will move from West and City to Liberty. Which means West will not be over capacity and City is hardly over capacity to begin with anyways. If it is, we'll just move some from City to Liberty sine it has plenty of room to grow. It is just nuts that anyone wants to build additional capacity to West and City. Makes no sense at all, unless the plan is to pop up City artificially.

Anonymous said...

My main issue with the bond is really its size. Let's be honest: the board is dysfunctional and nobody trusts anybody. Steve Murley is a liar and the administration is a bunch of shady characters. I am not going to give these people this much money. No way. Let's be realistic and if we have to vote dollar by dollar project by project, so be it.

Peter said...

Anon 9:24: There are plenty of young families and new development all over the district. I don't know about the mall, whatever that means, but I do know that I'm not upset for one second that my tax dollars went to building a great new high school where it is needed, and will go to building another elementary where it is needed, and another after that. But I also know I want my kids to be able to take a shop class if they want to, and go to a school that where they don't have to sit in a 90-plus-degree classroom when it's 80 degrees outside, and where if they want to play sports they don't have to have practice at 9:00 at night. I want everyone to have these opportunities. If that is, "I want what you have," then I guess I do want all the children in the district to have what the other children have, yes. And I'm willing to open my wallet just a little bit more to make it happen.
I totally agree with you that new building needs to match the enrollment growth, which is why we need to elect board members who will make good decisions about how to adjust the bond spending if needed and to spend other moneys wisely. But if you think having equitable facilities if somehow the same as "pop up City artificially," I guess we're not on the same page with regard to investing in education.

Betsy Miller said...

Why I’ve decided to Vote for the GO Bond:
After careful consideration and questioning I have decided to vote “Yes” for the GO Bond. I have friends on both sides of this issue and have listened closely to their take on the bond. I did not enjoy the lack of transparency regarding Hoover closing and I think many members of the ICCSC School Board and Mr. Murley could benefit from a lesson on public relations.
I have answers now regarding what will be placed on the Hoover lot and what City High plans to do with the land. I was given a map showing exactly what would go where and why certain areas are not viable due to geothermal issues.
It makes sense to me why this bond absolutely needs to go through now. Rolling out a bond in a series of 2 or 3 more votes will not work. It’s extremely difficult to get the community to show up for one vote, let alone two or three. Time is of the essence with many of our buildings.
Many people I spoke with have a great concern that small “city” schools will be closed in effort for bigger schools on the outside of town. After reading what the Go Bond offers I can say the money will go to the schools in town. Many of these schools, Mann for instance, are important anchors for their neighborhoods. Without improvements soon the future of repair work may not happen.
Lastly, I want to thank you Chris for your work on the Board. I feel you are genuinely concerned for the community, the kids, and the greater good. You are a fearless leader, and that is pretty cool!
Best Regards,
Betsy Miller – Hoover Parent

IDOM said...

Anonymous 9:24 AM

Property valuations from the Iowa Department of Management look like this:

$5,399,877,128 Iowa City
$2,383,856,014 *Coralville
$1,523,284,849 *North Liberty
$ 129,272,618 University Heights
$ 71,053,693 Hills
*Some of these valuations are in CCA School District.

These numbers don’t take in to consideration the commercial/residential roll-back (and probably a host of other factors). However, they do provide a good estimate of the proportional share each community would contribute to the bond. Iowa City would contribute more three and one half times the share of North Liberty.

I’m not necessarily advocating for this, but some people might argue that it would only be fair to spend the bond money proportionally. They might also argue that general fund revenue should be factored in to the equation to account for operational expenses – which would get messy given TIF abuse in Coralville and more recently in North Liberty.

BTW -most of Iowa City’s taxable valuation is on the east side of the river. University Heights, UIHC, UI Athletic Facilities, Finkbine, Hawkeye Courts/ Hawkeye Parking, UI Cross Country Course, National Guard and Johnson County Facilities take up significant area on the west side of Iowa City. Look at a map sometime.

IDOM said...

How is the district going to fund the operating expenses for the new capacity the bonds would provide North Liberty? The North Liberty Urban Renewal Area TIF district (which has no sunset and is mostly undeveloped land along Penn Street from I-380 all the way through town) is diverting money away from the district’s general fund and is contributing to the State’s budget problems and inability to backfill the shortfall. North Liberty is short changing the district. This is enough reason to vote “no” for any current or future bond proposal that includes projects in North Liberty.

Anonymous said...

The bond is not for the kids if its designed to break the school district in cities.

I asked some kids about the air conditioning at City High. They weren't sure which rooms were air conditioned and which weren't and some areas and rooms are already air conditioned. They are not complaining about air conditioning. They also said the City High cafeteria always has seats available and there aren't wheelchairs lined up in the hallways like one person said recently. They go to school assemblies in the existing gym and haven't complained about that either.

That map that is floating around doesn't commit to anything so Betsy there are no answers although the bond supporters want people to think there are. The bond language is vague and doesn't require the district to do those twenty projects either. The board hasn't approved plans to bring shop class back so Peter you might want to keep asking about that and while you're at it ask where the funding is coming from.

We have also never been told what is going on the Hoover site. What is going on the Hoover site?

Every Student Any School group supported bussing for balance and was willing to close schools. That could explain why the bond is so vague.

Chris said...

IDOM -- Just reposting my comment here from a previous thread:

I don’t think it makes any sense at all to talk about whether the available facilities money is being divided up equally among three (or four, or ten) geographic parts of the district. What should matter is where the needs are. There are lots of perfectly good arguments to be made about whether the district is unfairly prioritizing some needs over others. But for me it would never be about just taking the money and dividing it by three.

I also can’t agree that the relative tax contributions of different cities should drive where the money gets spent. If we start going down that road, should elementary schools in wealthier neighborhoods get more funding than those in poorer areas? After all, they pay a bigger share of the taxes! Again, what should matter is where the needs are.

Anonymous said...

WHERE IS THIS MYTHICAL MAP the pro-bond people keep talking about? All we hear is "I've seen the map!" but apparently the general public is not allowed to view it. All I've seen is an undated, extremely hazy document, full of "potential" uses, with a map that shows the Hoover building INTACT. What gives? I'd laugh if it didn't feel like the pro-Bond side is resorting to Trumpian "alternative facts" to sway us on the eve of the election. Honestly, though, just show us the map. We beg you. Put it out there so people can evaluate it for themselves: first, whether or not it is an officially DISTRICT-SANCTIONED document that has been vetted by the appropriate supervisory bodies and second, whether or not this supposed solution is is something that is in accord with this community's values. Thank you in advance.

Chris said...

Thanks, Betsy. As for the status of any map showing what will go on the Hoover property, please see this post.

Chris said...

Thanks, Peter. I think everyone has to assess their own comfort level with giving the district $191 million in spending authority, given the apparent leeway future boards have in how to spend the money, and given the institution’s (in my view) ongoing resistance to meaningful public input and control. Some people will decide it’s worth voting “yes” and that, as you wrote, this is as close as we can get to a real democratic system. Regardless of what happens with the bond, I sure hope we can get closer than this.

Chris said...

As for the ability of future boards to deal with capacity needs that are not currently addressed by the facilities plan, two points: First, keep in mind that even if SAVE is extended, it’s very possible (and in my view desirable) that the legislature would require the district to get voter approval of another Revenue Purpose Statement before having access to the funds.

Second, there is the issue of how freely the board could reallocate bond funds to address unanticipated needs (such as capacity needs in the North Corridor). Our legal counsel’s take, which the board just received three days ago, is that absent extraordinary circumstances, the district has to do all the “projects” listed in the ballot language, but of course the ballot just says we’ll do an “addition” here or a “renovation” there, without elaborating. The superintendent’s statement in April seems to match Peter’s view: that within the total dollar amount listed on the bond, the board could adjust some projects upward at the expense of adjusting others downward. This means that even projects listed in the FMP would be subject to potentially significant change. But, if the board chooses to reallocate funds in that way, it will have to confront the fact that adding funds to one project means subtracting them from another.

Again, it’s hard to square the argument that “The board can always reallocate the funds among projects” with the efforts to win votes for the bond by telling each school community what it can expect to get. What will go overboard if it turns out that the City High project is more extensive that what’s listed here, or if we create more capacity for Hills, Alexander, or the North Corridor?

If we can already see that there are flaws in the plan, wouldn’t it have been preferable to simply submit a plan to the voters that we felt comfortable committing to—rather than essentially saying, “Yeah, it’s a flawed plan, but don’t worry, we can change it in ways that we’ll tell you about later”?

Anonymous said...

Why would we build capacity at City to provide classes that are already provided by the Kirkwood Regional Center or could be? Waste of money on unneeded construction and wasted operating dollars for teachers..

Peter said...

Anon 1:52: Are you under the impression that instruction, transportation, and time spent at the Regional Center are free to the district? They're not.

But again, I'm probably just not on the same page as someone who feels comfortable with the phrase "wasted operating dollars for teachers."

IDOM said...

Chris –I’m not necessary advocating that we divide the money proportionally and you make some good arguments against it. But I do think it’s important to put factual numbers out there. I get the impression (from both personal interactions and comments on this blog) that some North Liberty folks overestimate the total value and contribution of growth in North Liberty and are using this misinformation to justify prioritizing their own needs over other needs in the district.

And in case anyone was wondering, growth in Iowa City over the last year, in terms of total dollars, was about two and one third times that of North Liberty.

On another note, do you feel that it’s important for school board members to actively advocate against the use of TIF in their district when it really isn’t justified? Apparently in North Liberty, corn fields are now considered urban blight in perpetual need of urban renewal. It’s disheartening to see them head down this road. It will have very real long term consequences for district/state budgets. I wonder how the board candidates feel about this. Maybe Amy Neilson can weigh in.

Before I forget; thank you for this blog and for your service on the board. Very much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Peter, the classes are taught at the Kirkwood Regional Center. Why build capacity to house programming that is already offered at Kirkwood? Why duplicate the programming that is already offered at Kirkwood? That is a waste. The capacity and teachers exist at Kirkwood. The costs for Kirkwood are shared with other districts. The operating dollars spent on teachers for recreating these programs at City could be spent on additional teachers to reduce class sizes.

Anonymous said...


I get the impression that North Liberty and Coralville are simply advocating for clear needs within the first 10 years of a bond with a 24 year payoff period. They are not trying to prioritize their needs ABOVE Iowa City's, they are simply saying we have clear elementary capacity needs that are not being met with this bond.

Duane Van Hemert agreed saying that TWO additional elementary schools will be needed up there, beyond the single new elementary school this bond provides.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:46, exactly! IDOM/JE even suggested not supporting bonds for capacity in NL because of their TIF use. All the more reason for tremendous concern that adequate capacity is not included somewhere on this bond. (What about TIF usage in Iowa City?) IDOM is part of the group doing everything they can to underestimate the enrollment growth in NL Sad.

Anonymous said...

You can say that again 8:10AM! They are doing everything they can to underestimate growth in North Liberty AND in Coralville too!

I thought even under TIF, businesses had to pay taxes on school bond levies? True or false?

Anonymous said...

I have discovered a couple of Facebook groups out there if anybody is tired of all the bitterness on Discuss IC Schools group.

One is called ICCSD Chat and is group.

The other one is a page called News, Blogs and Discussion of the ICCSD

IDOM said...

Anon 8:10am – Iowa City does make use of TIF, but they are much prudent in its use. The AY2016/FY2018 TIF Valuations from the Iowa Department of Management look like this:
$ 80,559,947 Iowa City
$713,294,571 Coralville
$142,017,314 North Liberty
$ 1,674,606 University Heights

I expect North Liberty’s TIF value to grow considering all of the growth area around Penn Street is in the North Liberty Urban Renewal Area TIF district.

According to the Johnson County website, FY15 County Dollars Diverted by City looks like this:

Coralville $3,391,170
Iowa City $98,952
North Liberty $693,783

IDOM said...

Anon 5:47 –

I’m sure someone out there can explain it better than me, but my understanding is that revenues from debts levies (bonds) are exempt from TIF - which is good. But the property tax revenues from the increment (the increased property value) are diverted away from the district’s general fund. Of course the state sets per pupil spending and backfills any shortfall – but we all know how the state budget has been lately.

Anonymous said...

Isn't a huge amount of TIF rolling off in the next year or two? Especially in Coralville?

Anonymous said...

If you live in North Liberty or North Coralville then you need to get out and vote in this election and make sure your neighbors vote too. Do you want our kids to continue to go to grossly overcrowded schools. Do you want our kids to have long bus rides to Iowa City schools where the "extra capacity" will be at? The bond proposal does not meet the needs of North Liberty and North Coralville students and growth projections. Why are we closing Iowa City schools and then simultaneously building up considerable capacity where it is not even needed on the east side? Vote NO for the bond and I agree with Chris' assessment of the candidates: Karen Woltman, Laura Westemeyer, JP Claussen and Charlie Eastham.