Why do we have a Facilities Master Plan? We are transforming our learning environment to deliver better educational outcomes. We are doing this for our students, staff and community. It is time to pay it forward and finish the plan.
It never will be cheaper than now to finish the plan. We have demonstrated this by finishing the first four years of the FMP on time and under budget. Utilizing historically low interest rates and a competitive construction environment has been key to delivering this outcome. Construction inflation and higher future interest rates are huge risks with any delay to the FMP. Now is the time to finish the plan.
The FMP has and will help keep schools open. Understand history or you are bound to repeat it. The original FMP study considered closing four or five schools (similar to what is happening across the state today); however, the FMP compromised on closing just one.
The FMP renovates Mann and Lincoln next year. After this renovation, I can give you $10 million reasons to keep Mann open (same for Lincoln).
Some have said “vote no to save schools.” I’ve struggled for the most polite way to respond to this, so here it is: This makes absolutely no sense to me. Reopening the plan like in 2012-13 would mean revisiting school closures.
State funding vs. inflation is worse now than it was four years ago. The state had a $350 million unplanned deficit in the last fiscal year. Any delay in the FMP delays needed operational savings. If you are a small school in the district, this would be a horrible time to revisit the plan. So simply, if you are voting to keep schools open, you should support the FMP and you should support the bond.
For a third time, our district will pass a state record bond. This time really makes sense since we are the fifth-largest district statewide, the second-fastest-growing district in Iowa, and we have a 10-year comprehensive plan. No other district has a comprehensive plan like ours.
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In my opinion, here is the real comparison on the size of the bond: After the bond we will rank 90th in the state for our tax rate servicing bond debt. This considers both district size and total borrowing over time. So we will be 90th in our use of debt, and 25 percent of districts will be at a higher level.
How many people reading this opinion bought their house with cash? Obviously, not many. Most people take a mortgage over 15 to 30 years. Most businesses borrow to build facilities. This is especially true in the current low interest rate environment. It’s the same for the school district.
We are investing in our facilities. We will pay the bonds off over 20 years or faster. (The district can accelerate payments just like you can with your mortgage.) This is how you get things done, and this is how you pay for them whether it’s your house, business or school district.
Let’s be frank. Public education is under attack. It’s being assaulted at both the state and federal levels. This is our opportunity to pay it forward! Previous generations paid it forward. This is firmly within our local control. It is our opportunity to support public education. I plan to vote to support public education, students, staff and community.
• Chris Lynch is a member of the Iowa City Community School Board. This column represents his opinions and not necessarily those of the board.