As promised, I am writing with a hopefully objective comparison of the candidates on a particular issue. This issue was addressed in a questionnaire prepared by the North Corridor Parents Group. The full questionnaire responses are available at http://northcorridorparents.org/2013-iccsd-candidate-interviews.
The question asked was this:
- The SILO/SAVE plan will not provide enough revenue for all the projects on the facilities plan. How will you pay for them?
I’ll summarize and discuss the candidates’ views separately:
Jason Lewis. Jason believes that we can “rebond” without raising taxes when our current bonds are repaid and that we have several other unspecified “funding streams” available to us for our construction needs.
The problem with this view, as I see it, is that we can’t get any additional money from bonds without a 60% favorable vote, which I don’t think that we can get. And if we issue bonds we will need to raise taxes because we need more funds than can be obtained with a “rebond.” And there aren’t any untapped other “funding streams” available. Therefore, I would prefer to utilize the $150 million which we do have to meet our priority needs before considering a bond issue.
Chris Lynch. Chris also recognizes that we would need a bond issue and mentions that we could issue bonds without raising taxes if we first repay our existing bonds.
As with Jason, I disagree–we cannot raise enough money from bonds without raising taxes, and I don’t think a bond issue could pass or that we should even consider a bond issue at this time.
Tuyet Dorau. Tuyet suggests that we can reauthorize our SILO/SAVE sales tax levies to get needed construction money.
The problem with this view is that we have already committed our SILO/SAVE money through 2029 and I don’t want to wait until then to build our critical projects. And we have to remember that in 2029 we will have another whole set of building needs.
Brian Kirschling. Brian believes that the economy will improve and that this will generate more sales tax for our construction needs. He also believes that there are federal dollars available.
My view is that if there were any federal dollars available we would have already pursued them. I do not know of any and I have never heard anyone else suggest that any such funds are available. And I am not willing to gamble on more sales tax revenues being available in the future-that’s just too risky.
Sara Barron. Sara and I largely agree on this one. She emphasizes being “careful stewards,” but also thinks a bond issue would be needed. Although I certainly agree with her on the need for stewardship, I’d take the issue one step further and avoid the bond issue until our crucial needs are first built with the money that we already have.
Phil Hemingway. Phil recognizes that there is a difference between “needs” and “wants” and that there is a need for fiscal responsibility.
Phil and I certainly agree on the need for fiscal responsibility. Although he doesn’t specify his priorities, I suspect that he and I would largely agree on these as well.
Jim Tate. Jim believes that a bond will be necessary and that since “. . . our administrative team has assured the current board that all the projects listed in the adopted plan is within the financial ability of the district, I have to adapt a wait and see outlook.”
I have to politely disagree with Jim. I don’t have anywhere near the confidence that Jim has in the administration. There’s been just too much misinformation for me to have the comfort level with the administration that Jim has. And, as stated above, a bond is speculative. I prefer something more concrete.
Karla Cook. Karla believes that we will have more than $100 million for our construction projects and that this $100 million is only 60% of the money that we will receive.
I think that she is mostly correct –we have about $150 million to spend. But the projects approved by Karla and the rest of the current board cost over $250 million and Karla doesn’t provide a solution to fill this $100 million gap.
So there you have it. Many candidates assume that a bond will pass without difficulty, and some have funding plans that can only be described as speculative.
For the record, here’s what I would do to satisfy our immediate needs while at the same time avoiding the need for a bond issue:
||Cost in $M
|Add to/renovate Longfellow
|Add to/renovate Mann
|Add to/renovate Penn
|Construct New Eastside Elementary #1
|Construct New Eastside Elementary #2
This increases our elementary capacity to 8,576 (103% of 2022 need) using the ICCSD capacity calculation contained in its audit or 7,992 (96.1% of 2022 need) using the BLDD capacity calculation. We know that the BLDD numbers are somewhat “soft,” as they rate Garner Elementary (recently built to accommodate 500 students) as a 445 student school.
|Junior High Projects
||Cost in $M
|Add to/renovate NCJH
|Add to/renovate SEJH
This increases our junior high capacity to 2,446 (99% of 2022 need) using the BLDD calculation or 2,340 (95% of 2022 need) using the ICCSD calculation. (Note – it may make sense to build or to plan to build more than space for 60 additional students at SEJH to better address its capacity needs)
|High School Projects
||Cost in $M
|New High School
This gives us high school capacity of 4,596, (100% of 2022 need) using the BLDD capacity calculation or 5062 (109% of 2022 need) using the ICCSD capacity calculation.
The new high school could be built with initial capacity of approximately 800-1000 and added to as the need arose. This would reduce initial construction costs.
In summary, the total cost of the above elementary, junior high, and high school projects is $146.6 million. This is within the amount of funds that we now have available. (RPS bond authority of $100 million, accumulated reserves for new high school of $19.5 million, anticipated unbonded/reserved SILO funds of $25 million, and a portion of the approximately $8 million yearly generated by PPEL) As you can see, our construction priority needs can be met without the need for a bond. Thank you for your support.
(The sources for the above information are: cost/increase in capacity numbers come from the facilities master plan committee materials prepared by BLDD; future projections for enrollment comes from “Enrollment Projections and Student Potential Analysis” prepared by De Jong-Richter Consultants and available on ICCSD website; ICCSD capacity calculations are filed with the ICCSD 2011-2012 annual audit prepared by the McGladry accounting firm and available on the State of Iowa Auditor’s office website; the amounts available to spend come from information e-mailed to me from the district.)