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Iowa City School District's revenue-purpose statement passes citywide vote

BY LAUREN COFFEY | FEBRUARY 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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The funding decision has been made.

After four months of discussion among School Board members on a way to allocate funds for the Iowa City School District, the members of the community had their chance to speak.

The Iowa City community voted in favor of the Security for Advanced Vision of Education repurpose statement plan.

The decision was made Tuesday night by 6,079 community members, with 3,403 people voting in favor of the plan. Of the registered voters in the greater Iowa City area, 8.08 percent voted in the special school election. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said he was hoping for a higher voter turnout.

“The highest voter turnout for a School Board election was 15 percent, so I was hoping for 10 or 12,” Weipert said. “There was an election in November and an upcoming one in March, so it may be voter burnout.”

Originally, the district followed a pay-as-you-go system, with limitations of saving $20 million to renovate elementary schools and $32 million for the construction of a new high school. The community was torn between choosing one option over the other.

With the new funding program, school-infrastructure local-option funds will all be placed in the state’s hands and allocated based on the number of students in each district — receiving $870 per pupil. With the district’s student population, the district would receive $10.6 million in fiscal 2013 and at the same time be able to borrow up to $100 million until 2029.

The current pay-as-you-go plan expires in 2017, at which point the state will adopt the new plan. Murley and the School Board decided to adopt the plan now instead of waiting.

Superintendent Steve Murley was thrilled with the passing of the funding plan.

“We had more voters than the last board election. I think it’s indicative of the enlarged electorate,” he said.

The community followed the lead of the School Board — which voted unanimously in favor of the funding plan on Nov. 6, 2012. The board wanted to give the community members time to process their decision.

Murley plans to evaluate schools to identify  the need for updates as early as this spring.

There are three main goals Murley and the board members hope to evaluate while looking at buildings in the summer: improving safety and security, air conditioning, and handicap-accessibility.

Despite an overall consensus, one resident felt the plan lacked specifics about what the money would go to.

“I wanted a specific plan.  There are no elementary schools on the East Side that have separate cafeterias and gymnasiums. I just wanted some guarantee on our stuff,” Iowa City resident Deb McCarthy said.

Board President Marla Swesey, said the board will focus on the elementary schools first.

“The board does not plan to look at the high-school situation until we have looked at the maintenance of older buildings and looking at building new elementary schools,” Swesey said. “We want to build two new elementary schools on the Northeast and Southeast Sides.”

Iowa City resident Janet Clark said she voted for the plan in conjunction with the diversity policy.

“I would have never voted for the RPS plan if I didn’t think the diversity plan would pass,” she said. “The diversity policy addresses huge inequalities, and I have quite a bit of confidence that without the passing of the policy, the 100 million will be used inequitably.”


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