CBJ Editorial: Pass the IC GO Bond

By the CBJ Editorial Staff

We can’t recall a time when we agreed on a public policy or political issue with Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan, which is why we had to seriously reconsider our initial support for the Iowa City Community School District’s (ICCSD) General Obligation Bond vote after learning that Mr. Sullivan was also championing the effort.

Ultimately, we decided that passing this bond is the right policy for this growing school district and core segment of the Corridor, regardless of who is or isn’t supporting it.

After all, helping to improve schools and our educational system is the right economic development strategy. Passing this bond will do just that.

To be sure, we wouldn’t advocate for the bond, which is essentially a $192 million loan, without serious deliberation. In fact, this bond, if passed by at least 60 percent of voters, will break a state record for the largest bond referendum of its type.

Even with the increase in property taxes, projected to be $4.25 per month on a home assessed at $100,000, the ICCSD will still have the lowest property tax rate among the state’s 10 largest school districts, and one of the lowest among neighboring districts.

“The facility needs are real,” said Josh Schamberger, a leader of the GO Bond effort and a Wickham Elementary School parent.

The district projects that 312 new students will enter ICCSD each year. Without more classrooms, 40 percent of students would be in classroom trailers, or so-called “temporaries,” by 2024.

The money from the bond will complete the remaining projects within the district’s 10-year facilities master plan, which has remarkably survived several school board elections.

Most of the folks who are against this bond don’t object to the needs per se, but would rather do it in smaller chunks. They simply don’t have a grasp of the political realities in this school district.

The stark political differences between Mr. Sullivan and this editorial page are emblematic of the varied differences across the ICCSD. In politics, you sometimes have to give something to everyone – or force everyone to sacrifice – in order to get an item passed. Without a broad approach to improving all areas of the district, including new schools in new developments and older schools in established neighborhoods, it would be virtually impossible to pass the bond’s high 60 percent threshold.

That’s just the nature of politics today.

The broad coalition of supporters from across the political spectrum indicates that this initiative has momentum, and is very much in line with what this community needs. We are encouraging the business community to also support the bond.

It might just be one of the few things we can agree on.