CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids school board voted Monday to schedule a public hearing on funding to build a new Jackson Elementary, the second school in a facilities master plan that would reshape all of Cedar Rapids Community School District’s elementary schools.
Six of the board’s seven members voted to hold the public hearing on March 9 during their 5:30 p.m. meeting at the Educational Leadership and Support Center, 2500 Edgewood Rd. NW.
The hearing is required by state law before the board can issue $25.9 million of bonds against revenue from a state penny sales tax, called SAVE, to build a new school at 1300 38th St. NW.
The board’s decision following the public hearing will not impact property tax rates. If board members vote to approve the issuance, though, it would move the district one step further in a facilities plan that promises to close eight of the district’s 21 elementary schools over the next 20 years.
Dexter Merschbrock, who won his seat on the board in November after campaigning against the plan, was the only dissenting vote.
He asked if the board — which he said hasn’t had any public “discussion of the facilities master plan in the three or four months that I’ve been on here” — first could schedule a work session about the facilities plan before a public hearing.
“I would like the members of the board … to have their opinions out in the public and have something on record before the public hearing,” Merschbrock said, one of four new board members.
“I understand that could happen at the public hearing, but every public hearing that we’ve had since I’ve joined this board is, ‘we’re having a public hearing,’ there’s no comments, it’s passed with no discussion from the board.”
Board President Nancy Humbles, first elected to the Cedar Rapids school board in 2009, recommended Merschbrock suggest the work session in writing.
“I’m saying I will not vote for this,” Merschbrock responded. “And I don’t think anyone should do this before we have that discussion, and we should then take a vote on this in the future.”
David Nicholson, the district’s executive director of business services, presented the resolution to the board. He said having a public hearing next month will affect how a contract between the district and Jackson Elementary’s architect is written.
In the two years since the school board approved the facilities plan, its overall price tag has increased by $85 million — to $309 million — and the construction of Jackson alone is nearly $6 million more than originally expected.
“At a point in time when we are 25 percent over budget on a $20 million project, it seems to me premature to be talking about funding for the next school when we’re still working on the first one,” Keith Hammer said during the meeting’s public comment period. The first school in the plan, Coolidge Elementary, is in its design phase.
The district plans to build larger schools on the sites of Coolidge, 6225 First Ave. SW, and Jackson elementary schools, and raze the existing buildings.
The third school in the plan, Truman Elementary at 441 W. Post Rd. NW, would be closed once the two larger schools are built.
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