IOWA CITY — Voters approved the largest school bond ever put to Iowa voters, $191.5 million, on Tuesday.
The massive school bond will be used for facilities projects in the Iowa City Community School District, the fifth-largest district in the state.
“Our work on our Facilities Master Plan will carry on seamlessly to deliver the educational environments that our students deserve,” the district said in a statement.
About 16,700 people total voted in the school election, almost 23 percent of registered voters in the Iowa City school district, according to unofficial results from the Johnson County Auditor’s Office.
“We set a record, it appears, in both Iowa City and in Clear Creek Amana,” Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said. “Both were right around 20 percent turnout, which is phenomenal.”
That was driven by “not only bond,” Weipert said, but also “school board races, and you had the Kirkwood bond on there too. There were a lot of different things people were voting on, and I think people right now are just engaged in the political process.”
Many voters at a polling place in the Coralville City Hall Tuesday evening were hopeful the measure would pass.
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“It could go either way,” Susan Todd, 58, said about 30 minutes before polls closed. “I expect it to pass because (it’s) Johnson County, but who knows.”
District officials have said the bond will finance the completion of the Iowa City district’s 10-year master facility plan. That includes renovations at the district’s high schools, junior highs, and Shimek, Wood, Wickham, Garner, Horn, Kirkwood, Borlaug, Alexander, Lemme, Mann and Lincoln elementary schools.
The measure will raise the district’s total tax rate to an estimated $14.96 per $1,000 of assessed value from $13.98.
Ken Clinkenbeard, 50, said he sees that increase to his taxes as worthwhile, even though his own children no longer attend Iowa City schools.
“I still thinks it’s important to vote for these issues,” Clinkenbeard said. “This area isn’t getting any smaller ... and the community benefits. It’s a better community if we have better schools.”
The pro-bond campaign One Community. One Bond — that spent more than $40,000 during the to campaign — characterized passage of the bond as a necessary step for the district’s 26 school buildings. Opponents, however, argued a vote yes would double as an undeserved vote of confidence in the Iowa City school board and the administration.
Still, the bulk of Iowa City’s voters turned out to approve the measure. In Coralville, Bob McLachlan, the Coralville City Hall’s polling place chairman, said nearly 1,700 people had voted Tuesday there by 7:30 p.m.
Approximately 65 percent of Iowa City bond voters — or 10,814 votes — were in favor of the referendum, compared to 35 percent — or 5,812 votes who cast ballots opposed to the measure. It required 60 percent to pass.
The vote counts remain unofficial until an official canvass of votes in coming days.
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Kate Vander Leest, an 18-year-old home from college for the week, said her vote in the school election was her first ever.
“Growing up in the Iowa City school district, I just think it’s important,” Vander Leest said. “I know first hand it’s important to have money go to the schools. Saying yes means the money will for sure get there.”
Turnout, said longtime poll worker McLachlan, was astonishing.
“This is busier than the presidential election,” he said, noting his location was the only one open in Coralville compared to multiple during a general election.
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