IOWA CITY– Public reaction to $3.6 million in budget cuts mounted at the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) April 22 school board meeting, and School Board President Sally Hoelscher threatened to curtail public comments as a result. Ultimately, director Jeff McGinness asked that budget cuts be placed on the next business meeting agenda for discussion, even though the 2014-2015 budget has already been certified.
It was another packed house as the ICCSD board of directors heard an hour’s worth of public comments on cuts that were announced April 8. Supporters of the German language program, which was eliminated, wore special red T-shirts with the words, “Save Iowa City German Classes.”
The public applauded after each speaker, and as the first of two segments of public comments concluded, Hoelscher threatened to curtail them because of audience interruptions.
“I am sorry. If you are not quiet and allow us to do our business, then we are not going to be able to come back to community comments,” said Hoelscher. “We do value everyone’s input. We will plan to come back to community comments,” she added.
McGinness asked that a discussion of budget cuts be placed on the May 13 agenda, indicating interest in revisiting the contentious issue. This action raised a question as to whether Superintendent Steve Murley’s April 8 statement after the board meeting will hold true: that the budget decisions for Fiscal Year 2014-2015 are final. Since the budget was certified and has been filed with the state, any changes would have to be done through a formal budget adjustment.
“The budget process itself is a very structured process within parameters established by the state,” said Murley in an email response to the question. “Once the revenue limits have been established it is then the responsibility of the administrative team to set the expenditures and ‘live within our means.’”
Since the revenue limits for FY2014-2015 have been set, if a budget cut is reversed, the money to pay for the item or program would have to be cut somewhere else.
The board also considered a number of projects on appendix nine of the facilities master plan, including the additions at Van Allen Elementary School.
The board approved the final project design and specifications for Van Allen. Plans call for two classroom additions, a teacher collaboration room, and expansion of the geothermal heating and cooling system, all using the same construction standards as the original building. Construction bids came in $200,000 under the initial $1.6 million budget.
“Are we going to go through the (LEED) recertification process for the addition?” asked board member Steve McGinness.
“We hadn’t planned on it,” replied Physical Plant Director Duane Van Hemert.
Although administration does not plan to recertify Van Allen as LEED, they will extend the design of the existing building, which was certified.
The board also approved design development for a nutrition services office addition, construction documents for South Elementary and Twain Elementary School, renovations at Hoover Elementary School, and a long-term roofing project. In addition, the contract for two phases of a safety and security safety upgrade was approved. This project will include replacements and upgrades to the fire alarm, security camera, intercom, access controls, intruder alarm, entrance camera, cabling and IT systems.
The May 13 agenda will also include a preliminary discussion of the administration’s Attendance Area Development initiative. This project is intended to engage the community on potential changes in attendance areas due to student population growth and planned new schools. So far, a number of public meetings have been held in population clusters, and more than 2,600 comments have been entered on the website created for public engagement, Engage Iowa City Schools at http://www.engageiowacityschools.org . Because of the high volume of comments, administration does not expect to have a detailed summary available by May 13, but the board recognized a need to begin their discussion of the initiative.
The next business meeting of the ICCSD board of directors is scheduled for May 13 at 6 p.m. Committee meetings are scheduled for May 6, with the policy and engagement committee at 5:15 p.m., and the education committee at 6:30 p.m.