The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that two school board members are floating the possibility of putting up a much smaller bond referendum this fall.
Instead of putting a $194 million bond issue on the ballot, board president Chris Lynch and board member Brian Kirshling are proposing the district instead as voters to approve between $75 million and $95 million in bonds.
Why the smaller number?
Well, getting 60 percent of voters to approve $194 million in bonds (and the subsequent property tax increase to pay it off) is a tall order. The P-C article quotes the district’s finance officer as saying that the biggest school bond issue ever approved in Iowa was in Ankeny in 2007 (pre-Great Recession) for $83 million. A smaller ask, theoretically, is more likely to pass.
Also, Lynch believes there is a good chance the Iowa Legislature will pass an extension of the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education tax, which is a sales tax for school infrastructure (or property tax relief) that is set to expire in 2029. If the state passes that extension, that new tax revenue would mitigate the need for such a large bond issue.
But what if that extension never passes? The district would have to go back to voters with another, bigger bond issue to reach the $194 million needed.
The plus side of going with the big bond issue is that practically everyone in the district would see benefit from the $194 million, and you only need to have one election. If the SAVE tax is extended, it could be used for property tax relief. But it exposes the district to the worst-case scenario: No bond issue passes at all, and aging schools are left without repair.
What do you think? Should the district go big or go home? Would you support a $194 million bond issue? Sound off here, and also be sure to attend the district’s listening posts on the subject.