Preparing for the Revenue Purpose Statement Vote

By Hannah Merrill

As the date for the vote to approve the Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) nears (Feb. 5), it is important for the district to explain what exactly the RPS is and how it will benefit the community.  Superintendent Stephen Murley pointed out that “our district represents one community,” and that the plan that is being put together will have a significant impact on teaching and learning.  Making a step to inform people on his ideas for the future, he presented this plan and described the RPS on Dec. 3 in West High School’s auditorium.

There will be many benefits with the RPS.  For example, there will be no increase in taxes and it will allow the district to construct new facilities to accommodate student growth.  Murley addressed the fact that at the moment, the district has a “pay as you go” motto.  When the district receives a stream of state sales tax, it spends it on what is needed at the moment—this was the case with the construction of Borlaug Elementary School.  Murley explained that the district needs to put together a comprehensive list of the district’s facilities’ needs to make a long term plan.  And of course, the issue of overcrowding will factor into the plan, given that there are 41 modular classrooms in the district—“We know we are about two buildings short in the district,” said Murley.

Yet even with all the complications of a growing school district, Murley said, “It’s a wonderful problem to have.”  Why?  Because the number of students enrolled in the district affects how much money the district receives from Des Moines.  Thus with more students, the district receives more money.

Another benefit of a RPS is that the Board would get the opportunity to choose what to do with the money that it receives, instead of the state deciding where it should go.  Without an RPS, there would still be money, but the Board wouldn’t have as much power in choosing how to use the money.  The RPS would tell the Board what can be done with the money, such as constructing new buildings.  And according to Murley, the document will carry through 2029.

The RPS would also allow for the district to address the concern that simply being in a facility in the district does not guarantee equal educational opportunities, because of different technology, lack of air conditioning, and many other factors.  With the RPS, the district would be able to start remodeling right away, and since it is being voted on in February, the district would have time to prepare for the summer construction season.

The district definitely has priorities that it would like to focus on and it would like to find the most cost effective way to deal with the problems.  First, the district would like to spend the money on renovations and repair, because that way, it does not have to add in all of the additional costs of a new building.  The next most cost effective option for the district is to add additions to schools, starting with Penn Elementary School.  And finally, the district plans on building a new elementary school in the North Liberty/Coralville area as well as a new high school.

Finally, if the RPS does not pass, then the Board will not be allowed to choose what to do with SILO funds and building projects will be delayed.  Again, the vote will be Feb. 5, and until then, the district must focus on building trust and analyzing everything that needs work in order to map out what exactly needs to be done in the future.