Monday, June 5, 2017

What happens if the bond passes?

This is the second post in a several-part series on the proposed G.O. Bond for the ICCSD. Last post, I presented the bond text itself and some of the history behind the present bond. In this post, I will discuss what we can reasonable expect to happen if the bond indeed passes on September 12. In the next post, I’ll discuss what we can reasonable expect to happen if the bond fails to pass.

Although there is some room for disagreement, I will describe a few different categories of what we can reasonably expect.

First, we have that which is extremely likely to happen (maybe not guaranteed, but I would be shocked if it didn’t happen). That is to say, it would be unreasonable if someone denied that the following events will occur.
  • Several months after the bond passes, the administration will make a proposal to the board to sell the first of four two-year bond, authorized by the September 12 vote, that will cover the first several projects mentioned in the G.O. Bond language and in the Facilities Master Plan (FMP). The board will approve that proposal, and it will lock in these projects. It is projected to be for approximately $46 million (see here for the information source), but by the time the projects that begin under this first phase are completed, the projects will cost a around $127 million of the $191 million dollars being requested.
  • The projects included within that proposal are all but guaranteed and they include:
    • The construction of a new elementary school in North Liberty (near 980 N Front Street, North Liberty) with an estimated cost of $19 million.
    • Lincoln and Mann renovations, which include full air conditioning, ADA compliance, dedicated music and arts rooms, important cost-saving upgrades to the building, and a new gym/multipurpose room. The estimated cost is $4.8 million for Lincoln and $11.7 million for Mann
    • Liberty High Athletic Fields: creating outdoor athletic fields for Liberty High School with an estimated cost of $12.5 million
    • City High Phase 2, which will include a classroom and wrestling room addition, expansions of the cafeteria, kitchen, and gym, full ADA compliance and improvements, full AC and a geothermal heat pump system, and roof replacement. The estimated cost for the project is $30.3 million.
    • North Central Junior High, which includes an addition with ten classrooms and a second gymnasiums, expansions of the library, cafeteria, kitchen, and the geothermal heating and AC system. The estimated cost for the project is $11.1 million
    • South East Junior High, which includes a classroom addition, full ADA compliance, giving the school full AC, locker and roof replacement, and a new kitchen and larger cafeteria. The estimated cost for the project is $15.6 million.
    • West High Phase 2, which includes full AC, some renovations and upgrades to the building, and new windows. The estimated cost for the project is $22.5 million.
  • Homeowner can expect their tax bill to increase by approximately $4.25 per month per $100K taxable value.

Second, we have that which is likely to happen, but there is a reasonable chance that these plans can be modified. Such modifications are likely to be comparable to the sorts of changes made previously (see my prior post for a discussion of what those changes were)--and as such, they will likely be based on significant demographic changes and must be approved by the school board to take effect. These projects will be around $46 million combined, and they include:
  • Wood ($7.4 million)
  • Wickham ($2.3 million)
  • Shimek ($4.9 million)
  • Northwest Junior High ($15.7 million)
  • Garner ($1.2 million)
  • Liberty High Phase 3 (500-student addition for $6.2 million)
  • Kirkwood ($7.3 million)
  • Horn ($1.2 million)

Third, we have those projects that are slated to occur toward the end of the 10-year plan. These projects are almost completely funded under the fourth of the four bonds the board will approve, and collectively, they account for about $15 million of the overall $191 million. Among all the projects mentioned, I think we can reasonably expect some work at each of these schools, but the scope and whether the additional classrooms (beyond the dedicated science, art, and music rooms) will be added is more flexible, depending on need. Once again, any changes here are likely to be similar to those undertaken previously (see my prior post for a discussion of what those changes were). These projects include:
  • Tate ($3.5 million)
  • Lemme addition ($8.0 million)
  • Borlaug addition ($1.5 million)
  • Alexander addition ($1.5 million)

Fourth, I think the bond has some more general outcomes that are likely but hard to quantify. It will likely give the district greater flexibility with redistricting. Greater space at target schools allows us to more effectively balance redistricting goals, including proximity to schools, improving demographic balance, and keeping our clean feeder system. Second, it will reduce the risk of future budget cuts, which is particularly important as we enter into a squeeze on state support for public education. Third, it will reduce our reliance on modulars.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Background for the 2017 ICCSD G.O. Bond

This is the first in a several-part series on the reasons for and against the ICCSD G.O. Bond.

On September 12, the Iowa City Community School District residents will be voting on a bond referendum. The language on the ballot will be as follows:

Shall the Board of Directors of the Iowa City Community School District in the County of Johnson, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $191,525,000 to provide funds to address health, safety, and accessibility issues in all school buildings, including air conditioning all school buildings, reducing the use of temporary classroom structures in the District, addressing classroom, lunchroom, and gymnasium overcrowding, and dedicating rooms to art, music, prekindergarten, and science by constructing, furnishing and equipping a new building, constructing additions to and/or remodeling, repairing, and improving the school buildings remaining in the District’s Facilities Master Plan, as follows: Mann and Lincoln renovations, Liberty High athletic facilities construction and site improvements, new elementary school construction in North Liberty and site improvements, West High renovation, South East and North Central Junior High additions, Shimek renovation, City High addition and upgrades, Wood addition, Wickham upgrades, Garner and Northwest additions, Liberty High addition, Horn renovation, Kirkwood addition, Borlaug, Alexander, and Lemme additions, and Tate High addition and upgrades?
For the bond to pass, it requires 60% of the vote. Here is a bit of background on the matter.

On February 2, 2013, voters approved a new revenue purpose statement (RPS), with 56% voting in favor and 44% voting against. This vote allowed the district to borrow up to $100 million against future sales tax revenue, and it was one of the primary funding mechanisms for the initial Facilities Master Plan (FMP).
On December 10, 2013, the ICCSD Board of Education approved the first iteration of the FMP--the overall structure was decided several months earlier on July 23, 2013 (see here). The process for determining the projects within that iteration of the FMP was lengthy, lasting around one year, and it involved community-wide discussions and ultimately a recommendation from a steering committee composed of numerous district stakeholders. After that decision, the primary opposition to the FMP came as a result of the board’s decision to close Hoover Elementary as part of FMP (my summary of the matter is here), and along with this criticism, some thought that the RPS vote was misleading, since the decision to close an elementary school (and consider closing a couple of others) was only made after the community vote for the RPS. Still, it must be acknowledged by critics and supporters alike that the board has addressed many of the transitional concerns that were raised by these critics (e.g., guaranteeing transfers for Hoover’s teachers and not using Hoover as a transitional schoolhouse), even as Hoover’s closure remains as part of the FMP.

On April 14, 2015, the board approved an update to the FMP (see V1 here). The update was made in response to changes in projected school enrollments, and it involved shifting several additions from buildings (e.g., Lincoln, Longfellow, and Mann) where enrollment projections declined to buildings where enrollment projections increased (e.g., Garner, and Weber). There were some switches that did not seem to align well with changes in projected enrollment (e.g., building an addition at Borlaug and Lemme), and it was unclear to me what the rationale for those changes was. If I had to speculate, I would suggest that it would be to increase flexibility in redistricting as the need arises in coming years. In addition to the Hoover-related objection, the other primary complaint against the FMP was that it signaled a shift from valuing the inner-core of the community to valuing building and growth on the periphery of town. For those engaged with the process and the reasons behind the decision, it is clear that this criticism did not take seriously how projected enrollments had shifted, nor did seem to recognize that the FMP was still slated to spend tens of millions of dollars renovating and upgrading the elementary schools closest to downtown Iowa City.  

On January 24, 2017, the board approved its latest update to its FMP (see here with a summary of the changes here). The board did not make as extensive of changes during this FMP update as it had two years prior. One can speculate about the reasons for that, including wanting less change given an upcoming bond vote, or the history of unwarranted and uninformed criticisms of the previous update (the periphery of town criticism above), but whatever the reason, the update was not as responsive to changes in the projected enrollment as the prior update was. Still, it did make some adjustments to address some of the changes in projected enrollment (e.g., accelerating  North Central Junior High’s addition and renovations), and it shifted the location of the new elementary school in North Liberty. There was also a slight shift in emphasis from adding general education classrooms to adding dedicated art and music rooms. This slight shift results in added capacity to the buildings involved, since the rooms used for art and music can then be used for general education rooms. In addition to the Hoover-related objection, the primary criticism of this particular update was that critics were concerned that it did not adequately account for changes in projected enrollment. For the most part, I heard very little of the the periphery of town criticism regarding this update.

It is clear that the bond language was inspired by the updated version of the FMP. The next post in the series will draw from this background to look at what voters can expect to happen should be bond pass.