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School board approves $7.5 million facilities plan budget

BY ELDON GIANNAKOUROS | MARCH 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa City School District will have more than $7 million in school-improvement expenses during the next school year.

The expenses were finalized as the Iowa City School Board approved the district's 2012-13 budget for the comprehensive facilities plan in a 5-1 vote on Tuesday.

The plan covers all infrastructure and maintenance projects the district will undertake during the school year. Notable projects included $90,500 locker replacements at West High, a $90,000 parking expansion at Longfellow Elementary, and $195,000 for remodeling science rooms at Northwest Junior High.

Superintendent Stephen Murley said the board's authorization is only required for undertakings that are projected to cost more than $50,000, all of which were voted on Tuesday night.

Board member Tuyet Dorau opposed approving the budget, saying the plan lacked information on individual expenses outside their cost and lacked a long-term focus.

"I think it would be a bad idea for us to approve this given that we want a more comprehensive document," Dorau said. "If we don't have a long-term idea of where we're going, we might be wasting time and money on projects that we don't need to take care of right now."

Dorau said earlier versions of the plan contained more information and some infrastructure projects that were absent from the latest version.

"There are several projects missing from this list that had been there before," she said. "Changes haven't been made to make it a long-term plan."

Murley said he proposed the district combine its massive infrastructure budget into the current, more manageable comprehensive plan when he joined the district as superintendent in 2010. He agreed the plan still needs more detail but said the board should flesh out these details in closed work sessions over the upcoming year.

"It does need more detail," Murley said. "But that is something that will come as the board works through a comprehensive plan."

Board member Sarah Swisher also supported the plan.

"It's not meant to be a plan; it's a work in progress," she said. "The district has needs; we need to start working on projects and we need money."

City High parent Phil Hemingway also voiced some concerns about the plan in its current form. Only authorizing projects $50,000 or above, he said, limits the board's control over a wide range of district expenses.

"Fifty thousand dollars doesn't give them enough control," he said, "It ought to be $20,000 or even $10,000."


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