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ICCSD to schedule February 2013 vote

IOWA CITY– Iowa City schools will edit their revenue purpose statement (RPS) and put it to a February 2013 district-wide ballot asking for the authority to borrow up to $100 million in future (up to year 2029) sales tax revenues.
The latest measure comes after plans for a north side high school had been all but shelved in September after a district study showed the $30 million set aside for another high school would fall short of projected costs.
Board members poised to raid the stockpile, freeze a new secondary school plan and spend the dollars elsewhere in the school system, with many parents citing needs for air conditioning, upkeep on existing buildings and new elementary schools on the east side.
The issue began prior to a School Infrastructure Local Option (SILO) vote in 2007 when north side residents began asking then-superintendent Lane Plugge and the school board for additional classrooms to reflect the growth of the district in their neighborhoods.
The SILO vote passed and the schools began to set-aside $3 million per year for another high school.
Since then, new board members and a new superintendent had parents and voters wondering if the school would ever be built.
In an informal roll call vote at a September facility meeting, a majority of the board expressed a desire to re-allocate the high school funds to other facility needs.
Now Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) will likely pursue a tax anticipation revenue bond to borrow on anticipated sales tax money until 2029, and make room in the budget for another high school.
On Oct. 16, Superintendent Stephen Murley recommended to the school board that a ballot be put to a district-wide vote in February 2013 that would replace the current SILO purpose statement, which expires in 2017.
The proactive repurposing and advance on revenues will allow the schools to lock-in low interest rates on projects for new school buildings, upgrades, and other renovations, instead of waiting for money to accrue at the traditional pay-as-you-go pace.
Murley said the school district would, “(be able to) build more now than if we wait,” but advised the board not to think of the borrowed money as one lump sum. Instead, projects should be assigned at the board’s discretion from the funding stream. The new RPS could fund some projects starting as soon as next summer.
Murley said it was an opportunity to meet more needs in community, and address ICCSD’s existing infrastructure and growing enrollment.
The schools will only risk paying off low interest rates instead of waiting and paying for higher construction inflation.
The borrowed money will not affect property taxes and is not a new tax. According to school administrators, the up-front money would let ICCSD catch up with its steady growth and influx of new students.
The bond money will allow the schools to add brick and mortar classrooms while removing portable classes. The district currently has over two dozen portables in use.
At the Oct. 16 meeting, Assistant Superintendent Becky Furlong reported that some 300 new students were welcomed to the district’s unofficial enrollment tally this year. The number is less than the more than 400 new pupils added last year. Projections show ICCSD enrollment will add fewer than 300 students on average for several years.
Murley and the board discussed bringing a communications plan to assist in swaying voters for an RPS ballot on Feb. 5, 2013 to the Nov. 6 board meeting, when the board will vote on language for a new RPS.