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Vote on GO bond nears

The highly-contested $192 million Bond will be voted on Tuesday, Sept. 12

Graphic+by+Fenna+Semken
Graphic by Fenna Semken

Graphic by Fenna Semken

Maddi Shinall

Maddi Shinall

Graphic by Fenna Semken

The Iowa City Community School District’s General Obligation (GO) Bond for facilities renovation will be voted on by residents of the ICCSD on Tuesday, Sept. 12. If passed, the GO bond will be the largest ever of its kind in the state of Iowa, amounting to a predicted $192 million.

The bond finances the ICCSD’s Facilities Master Plan (FMP) which provides facilities upgrades to all buildings in the district, including new air conditioning and windows for West High.

The GO bond will be paid for through a 25-year increase in property taxes, which will add on average about one dollar per $1,000 worth of house value per year to residents’ property taxes.

Because of such consequential possible outcomes of the vote, strongly opinionated groups have been formed both for and against the GO Bond.

Mitch Gross, one of two west side liaisons for the vote yes committee and a social studies teacher at West High, is in support of the bond. “I have three kids that attend west side elementary schools, as well as Northwest {Junior High]. I believe that our school buildings need some real serious upgrades, and I think being a teacher, I have a little credibility because this is also my work environment,” Gross said.

Gross especially supports the bond because of renovations it would provide to West High. “Most people in 2017 work in an air-conditioned building. My fellow colleagues, cooks and custodians, we’d all like to work in an air-conditioned building. We’d also like to have windows that don’t leak,” he said. There still remain original, 50-year-old windows at West that have never been replaced and are known to leak during storms and blizzards.

I believe that our school buildings need some real serious upgrades, and I think being a teacher, I have a little credibility because this is also my work environment.”

— Mitch Gross

While these upgrades are both necessary and covered by the GO bond, most objections to the bond stem from questions around the fiscal responsibility of the ICCSD. Martha Hampel, mother of three children in the ICCSD, and advocate against the bond here, is troubled by lax bond money spending regulations and the excessive scale of the bond.

$191 million spread out over 4 loans with the last maturing in 2042, plus interest that could bring the total to $250-$300 million, is too much money to put in the hands of a school district administration in which many of us {voters} have little confidence,” Hampel said.

Hampel is not without reason to mistrust the school district, citing an issue involving misuse of power in an addition to Penn Elementary School that came to light this summer. “Facilities Director Duane Van Hemert, with the support of Superintendent Steve Murley, acted in direct defiance of an official school board decision by hiring a company to do work at Penn Elementary that the school board voted not to hire,” Hampel said.

$191 million spread out over 4 loans with the last maturing in 2042, plus interest that could bring the total to $250-$300 million, is too much money to put in the hands of a school district administration.”

— Martha Hampel

Hampel also points to the GO bond ignoring future enrollment expansion in the district as another source of concern.

Enrollment projections for the district are already out of date. For example, due to nearly 2,000 newly approved single-family plats, the North Corridor will need a new elementary school in addition to what is promised by the FMP,” Hampel said.

Nowhere in the GO bond is there money allocated to a new elementary school in North Liberty, and if one were to be built in the near future, it would require yet another bond.

The vote on the GO bond must receive 60% approval in order to pass on Tuesday.

For more details on the bond click here. To see how the bond money will be spent on each school in the district click here.

Graphic by Fenna Semken. 

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Vote on GO bond nears