Education

Without funding for its plan, Cedar Rapids Schools reviewing when to begin sequence of construction, closures

John Laverty, Board President, opens a Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education meeting at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
John Laverty, Board President, opens a Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education meeting at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

An absence of funding for the Cedar Rapids school district’s extensive facilities plan has delayed a meeting between school and city officials to discuss the plan’s impact.

School officials called off the joint meeting set for Monday morning, Cedar Rapids School Board President John Laverty said, and likely won’t reschedule it until next year.

The delay, Laverty said, is because of a looming sunset on a state penny sales tax, known as SAVE, that school districts can use to fund construction and infrastructure needs.

The school district’s facilities plan — which would close eight of the district’s elementary schools and fund new or renovated buildings for its other 13 — is contingent on the tax’s extension.

During this year’s legislative session, state lawmakers came close but did not approve a 20-year extension of SAVE, which sunsets in 2029.

Without that revenue secured, Laverty said the school board is reviewing the facilities plan’s timeline.

“There will still be conversations with the city moving forward,” Laverty said. “But I think we’ll wait until January or so, when we start to hear more seriously in terms of the SAVE funds.”

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A joint city and school group was formed by a memorandum of understanding between the two entities in March, as the city sought to form a task force that would study ways to redevelop or reuse closed schools.

The memorandum called on the group to meet before July 1. A letter from Laverty to Mayor Brad Hart and the City Council requests the window be extended to July 1, 2019.

School board members unanimously approved the $224.2 million facilities master plan in January and still intend to implement it, Laverty said.

Without immediate access to SAVE funds, members are considering the district’s options, he said. If the tax isn’t extended soon, the board could consider asking residents to approve a bond issue.

“Eventually, buildings are going to have to be updated,” Laverty said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

B.A. Morelli contributed to this report.

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