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School board to cast final vote on funding at Nov. 6 meeting

BY LAUREN COFFEY | OCTOBER 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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After months of deliberation over funding for the Iowa City Community School District, school board members decided to wait a bit longer to make a final decision.

The Board will vote during the next Iowa City School Board meeting on whether to approve a new comprehensive plan, regarding a new way to allocate school infrastructure funds.

The plan, if approved, would be voted on by the public on Feb. 5, 2013. Superintendent Steve Murley officially endorsed the Feb. 5 voting date, instead of the other option, Dec. 4.

“I just think it’s coming up too fast,” School Board Vice President Karla Cook said. “With the voting on the bond issue and the election, there’s a lot of things on [voters’] minds. [Bringing the vote on Feb. 5] will allow us to address issues early and react to various things.”

The proposal, called the SAVE plan, will take the local-option funds — in the hands of the state, instead of locally — and allocate the funds based on the number of students in each district. The district will receive $870 per pupil, giving the School District $10.6 million in fiscal 2013 and at the same time be able to borrow up to $100 million until 2029.

The district currently uses a “pay as you go project,” in which officials only spend sales-tax money that has been received and is in the bank. The current system has $32 million set aside for a new high school and $20 million for construction on the elementary schools.

The board ran into problems deciding whether to help fund the elementary schools or save for a new high school. This new plan could address both problems.

The board members unofficially approved the plan at a meeting Oct. 11 and most likely will all agree to pass the new plan.

Whether the district has a new plan come 2013 lies in the hands of the community voters.

Many community members voiced their concerns at Tuesday night’s board meeting by saying they feel the board needs to be more transparent and keep their promises.

“[Whether I vote for the plan] depends on how specific the language is,” said Amy Adam, a North Liberty resident. “If not, I don’t know if I can support the plan. The board has gone back on its word before. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Cook feels as though she and other board members have been open in all of their decisions made for the district.

“I never did anything I didn’t tell people about,” she said. “I want the best for the 12,500 students in this district. I don’t have children in the district; it’s not my children I’m worried about. I’m worried about everyone else’s children.”

Murley says although the official plan cannot have specific wording, officials hope to provide material to display to the public what the district intends to do with the SILO funds.

“The board in general can’t write in what you’re going to do with the funds,” Murley said. “We’ll have publicity material that provides a level of reassurance to those who are skeptical. We hope to learn from the past. The old [fund allocation plan] didn’t have placeholders for projects. It did in the superintendent limitations, and we clearly followed through on the elementary school component. But even that wasn’t specific.”

Murley and the School Board, as well as several community members hope the plan will pass on Feb. 5.
North Liberty resident Jennifer Greer brought buttons to the board meeting that read “One Community One District One Plan.”

“I haven’t decided [if I will] vote on the plan if the wording is vague], but I’ve seen tidbits from Superintendent Murley,” Greer said. “He sees all the needs of all the sides of the district, which is great.”


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