Iowa City school bond is a sound investment

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Our community can make a sound investment in our students, schools, and communities by passing the ICCSD general obligation bond.

The bond is part of the district’s 10-year facilities master plan (FMP). The district has completed the first ten projects, including additions at Mark Twain and Van Allen Elementary Schools, each on time and on budget. The district will open Liberty High and Hoover East this year. Historical renovations on Longfellow Elementary and construction of an addition at Weber Elementary are ongoing. The FMP’s final 20 projects are bond dependent, including an addition to Kirkwood Elementary, renovations at West High School, and a historical renovation of Horace Mann Elementary. A detailed description and cost estimate for each FMP project is available on the ICCSD website.

At its peak, the bond will increase residential property taxes by $51.05 per year on a home assessed at $100,000. That’s $4.25 a month, or about the cost of four large pizzas each year.

A strong local economy has grown our district’s tax base by about 4.5 percent per year for the last 15 years. If that continues, the property tax associated with the bond will decrease by about half in six years and our district could pay off its 20-year bond debt in only 14 years.

The ICCSD is the fifth largest school district in the state, but we have the lowest school property tax rate of the ten largest Iowa school districts. When the bond passes, we will still have the lowest property tax rate among those schools. Similarly, the ICCSD has one of the lowest property tax rates among neighboring school districts. For example, Marion’s school tax rate is $18.58, while ours is only $13.99.

Some fear that increased property taxes could make our communities less competitive. Investing in our public schools is the surest way to strengthen our communities. When new families and new businesses consider moving to the area, the first thing they ask about is the quality of our schools.

Some have suggested that the ICCSD should propose a smaller bond. However, they have not indicated which schools should remain overcrowded, unairconditioned, or inaccessible to students with disabilities to accommodate a smaller bond. Nor have they accounted for how inflation would increase the cost of postponed projects.

Some also say the bond is too expensive for our low-income residents. A great education is key to a bright future for all kids. Our low-income students can’t afford for us to fail them with inadequate and inequitable educational facilities or 90-degree classrooms that disrupt their learning. For a parent earning an hourly wage, one day of missed work due to a heat-related school closure can cost a day’s wages ($58 for a minimum wage earner) or even a job.

Finally opponents have mistakenly suggested that if the bond passes, there won’t be any money for necessary projects not included in the bond. The ICCSD is scheduled to pay off its existing bond debt before it sells new bonds authorized by the Sept. 12 election. Further, state law permits the ICCSD to borrow significantly more than $191.5 million. After the bond passes, additional revenue sources, such as the physical plant and equipment levy, will allow the district to make smaller additions, renovations, and improvements not included in the bond.

If the bond does not pass, the district will have much less money for necessary projects and will have to make difficult decisions about which projects receive funding.

Past generations wisely invested in our public schools so our children and communities could thrive. Join us in supporting this bond on Tuesday.

• Mark and Leslie Nolte live in Iowa City.

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