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Letters to the editor: Head-to-head on the ICCSD bond referendum

Posted by Letters | May 16, 2017 | Community/News, Letters

Photo by Jordan Sellergren

By Rod Sullivan

I wholeheartedly support the Iowa City Community School District bond referendum. Here is why:

1. Our kids need it. Johnson County keeps growing, and our schools haven’t kept up. We add over 300 students per year, the equivalent of one elementary school. Our kids deserve climate controls. They deserve rooms for art, music and PE. If nothing changes, 60 percent of our students will have class in a temporary classroom. And ADA accommodations are federal law!

2. Our teachers deserve it. Our teachers are magnificent and at a minimum deserve to work in safe, comfortable environments.

3. Education is at our core. Education is our biggest industry, biggest employer and greatest point of pride. We are defined by education.

4. Buildings schools is great for the local construction industry.

That is why I support the bond. Now allow me to address some of the bond’s critics:

Some say, “You can’t trust the board.” All the more reason to pass a bond! Bonding language spells out every project. Passing a bond is the best way to hold them accountable.

There is an old Zen proverb: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I view the bond vote in much the same way: “Hate the board? Our kids need the bond. Love the board? Our kids need the bond.”

For adults to allow their petty political differences to stand in the way of facilities our children need is not OK. This is not about the board or administration. Neither will be here for long; our children will be. While adults bicker, children suffer.

Some say, “It is too expensive.” The school district has bonds coming off the same time these would start. It makes the overall tax increase a very manageable $0.98/$1,000, or $4.25 per month on $100,000 assessed value. Even if the bond passes, the ICCSD will still have the lowest tax rate of any urban district in Iowa — lower than our neighboring districts.

The current plan took seven years to get this far. If we vote no, we are telling our 10 year olds they will never see any facilities improvements during their academic careers.

Finally, please consider this: With all the negativity in Washington and Des Moines, where they can do whatever they want to us, here is an opportunity for us to stand up and show that we support education.

Much more information is available at passthebond.com.

By Tom Yates

When I ran for the [Iowa City] school board in 2015, I said the following things about the GO Bond and the Facilities Master Plan, both of which were already large, looming issues: 1) The amount of money requested, which was somewhat nebulous then, but climbing beyond $100 million, was a ridiculous amount of money to ask of the people of the district. 2) Any plan that promised something for everyone should be mistrusted.

One more thing that I have always said, and still continue to say about the master plan, is that the district administration cannot be trusted to implement it successfully. The Iowa City Community School District does not have a terrific record of major project success, in spite of what projects always look like when they are finished, and how happy — at least temporarily — parents and staff seem to be once they see the project completed. There are plenty of examples of this, not the least of which is Alexander Elementary, our newest school, one not only built deliberately in a location which is geographically difficult to access, but which is now too small. Only one year after opening, it needed temporary classrooms, and will continue to do so. What does this say about planning, both in location and intended student population?

What is not on the plan is as telling as what is on it. For example, there is nothing about special education, or any significant mention of vocational/career education, two areas of education about which the district has either been in serious legal trouble, or basically done away with. Some schools will not get anything from the master plan and some will — potentially — get makeovers so extensive they will take years to complete, or, more likely, will be rushed and done both ineffectively and way over-budget. The original plan called for Lincoln, Hoover and Hills schools to be closed. That call didn’t last, although no one who cares about those schools should relax. Hoover, one of the few older elementary schools to be completely air-conditioned, is back on the chopping block, in spite of its necessity as a neighborhood school.

The administration and proponents of the bond offer that the district has let too many needs go unaddressed for too long. Really? And who would “the district” be? Which boards and administrations? And now everything needs to be built or repaired in one 10-year (give or take a few years) swoop that will cause property taxes to rise — and stay there — until at least 2042? And that will make everything better? Really?

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 221.

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Letters

Letters to the editor(s) are always welcome; we reserve the right to fact check and edit for length and clarity. Please send letters, comments or corrections to editor@littlevillagemag.com.

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Blog Comments

The last reported dollar amount I remember for the tax rate if voters authorize the district to spend up to $191.525 million (to which tens of millions in interest will be added) is that it will cost us $1.95033 per thousand of assessed valuation, not $.98. I understand the school district does anticipate retiring general obligation debt under which we now pay around $ .53 per thousand of assessed valuation; however, my recollection from the last school bond vote in 2003 was that debt related to that vote was supposed to only last 15 years (to 2018) and then we would be done paying on it, not 39 years– from 2003 to 2042, which is how long any new GO bonds, if voted in, would be paid on by us. Further, I’m not counting on any added “board discretionary levy reduction” which seems improbable at best, especially given the use of the word “discretionary” (I’ve also seen it referred to as “voluntary.”). While we would give the district authority to spend up to $191.525 million, the bond ballot language does not break this total figure down to tie specific dollar amounts to schools/projects–it should have. I heard at a couple of bond presentation meetings that the broad ballot language is so the district has “flexibility” about how to spend the money. The bond ballot language also does not state where schools are to be located. It should have. Here’s a link to the bond ballot language a divided ICCSD board approved and that we will vote on in September so you can read it for yourself. http://www.boarddocs.com/ia/iccsd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=ALJMUR5C6745.

[…] Sullivan and Tom Yates: Head-to-head on the ICCSD bond referendum […]

If I understand correctly, Rod Sullivan essentially tells us in his belw blog entry that he misled the public about the 2003 Yes for Kids bond, on which he says was a committee member, and he begs the district not to make him a liar, or more of a liar?
Read this and then, based on his own words and admissions in this blog entry, realize that while he means well, his track record apprars to indicate he has poor judgement when selling large ICCSD school bonds. How many older schools will be closed after his support of the 2017 bond language?
In his own words:
http://rodsullivan.blogspot.com/2009/02/3-3-09.html?m=1

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