By Tim Terry
First, a disclosure: I do not have any children who attend or will attend elementary school in the Iowa City Community School District. I am a trustee and board president for Willowwind School, which my children attend.
I am in my 38th year of practice as an accountant and financial adviser. I am also a taxpayer and resident of Johnson County. My four children will attend junior high and high school at one of Iowa City Community School District’s outstanding schools.
Now that you know who I am, this is why I am voting “yes” for the district’s revenue purpose statement proposal on Tuesday. I care about the children. Their needs supersede all others.
When you have buildings with $30 million of overdue maintenance and upgrades, you have a crisis on your hands.
When you have an additional 1,056 students added to your census since 2007 with an additional 200 being added each year and no capacity to accommodate them except through (now 41) “temporary” overcrowded classrooms, you have a crisis on your hands.
We need what this RPS promises: the financial wherewithal to address the pressing needs of the district. This plan is simple. It authorizes the district to borrow up to $100 million against future sales tax revenues. With the funds, the district will be able to do:
l Complete necessary repairs and renovate existing buildings.
l Build three new elementary schools
l Expand Penn Elementary.
l Expand North Central Junior High.
It also will set the stage for building a new high school.
I know this list is not cast in stone. The skeptics and cynics are raising the flag of doubt. Unfortunately they are also ignoring the obvious: These are identified and immediate needs. While this school board has been dysfunctional, these needs are real and pressing. The failure of residents to approve this measure because of their anger or distrust of the board simply punishes the children. In also is just plain shortsighted.
There are five compelling reasons this measure should be passed now and not delayed:
l It provides predictability for long-term planning. You do not need to be a financial expert to understand the end result is always improved by your ability to plan and budget.
l We take advantage of the lowest interest rates in 40 years. Some districts are currently borrowing at rates approaching 2 percent.
l We stay ahead of inflation. Building costs will escalate and the district is smart to build before prices rise.
l We retain local control. If we fail to have a plan in place for beyond 2017, we lose the ability to make local decisions. The result is ruinous for future facility needs as those funds will go to offset existing levies. This will leave nothing for new facilities.
l The fifth reason is by far the most compelling. It meets the needs of children currently in the seats! It is disingenuous to suggest we should ignore a current identifiable need in favor of an uncertain future need. Children will immediately benefit from the improvements and expansions.
Sadly, much of the discussion has centered around the public distrust of the school board as a result of actions on matters not related to this issue. There is skepticism regarding the planning being balanced across the district. The fact that all community leaders from across the district have endorsed this proposal reflects one of its basic tenets: creation of a uniform learning environment for all children in the district.
As someone who is passionate about meeting the educational needs of our children while being financially responsible, I am proud to endorse the RPS proposal.
Tim Terry of Iowa City is founder of Terry Lockridge & Dunn/World Trend Financial. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org