Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Not Once, But Twice

High school auditorium carpet and painting funded
through SAVE. Completed summer of 2016.
Well, its August. This time of summer we really begin to see the pace of operations pick up, and the signs that school will be starting soon begin to emerge. This is evident in the traffic in and out of the central office, where we have families stop to register. It is during many of those visits when people will ask about the status of our projects, and say something like, 'It sure looks nice around here'. Or, 'We are really glad you did X! It's such an improvement!'. Now in terms of our progress, it's kind of a mixed bag report. Some of our projects are finished, and others; well we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! Nevertheless, it is great to see this work being done and the vast majority of people have had nice things to say about what we are currently doing-and what we have done in the past. I have long believed that we should have projects on the docket every summer that improve the look and feel of our facilities. Not only does it improve the climate of the buildings, but these regular upgrades and updates improve the life of our facilities and make people feel good about their school district. From what I have heard, most folks agree. Now if you didn't know this, our school board has been (and continues to be) very strategic about the development and financing of these projects. We have a master plan titled, 'Hudson 2020' that guides our project development and it has served us well the last several years. You should also know that these projects are funded through the SAVE fund or by using PPEL dollars. We are in the initial planning of the next phase of Hudson 2020, which will include a pretty substantial investment in the elementary school and will commit significant SAVE capital over the course of the next 3 years. However, I am a little bit concerned that the revenue might not be able to meet our expectations. The result of this could cause us to delay or scrap some of these plans. Here is why.

When the General Assembly convened last January, the governor proposed in his Condition of the State address to use a portion of the growth of the SAVE fund to improve water quality in our state. This proposal was partially in response to a lawsuit the Des Moines waterworks filed against 3 north Iowa counties they allege have contributed to high nitrate levels in drinking water. In addition to this, improved water quality is expected to reduce the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. Water quality became part of our collective conversation during the last legislative session and had many different groups weighing in on the subject. In fact, our own FFA outlined the issue in competition this last spring with a great deal of success. Everyone wants clean water! But in spite of that, the governor's proposal was not well received by Republicans or Democrats in either chamber of the legislature. 

This opposition comes because the proposal re-purposes revenue that has been dedicated to school infrastructure, and schools all around the state, including Hudson, rely on that revenue to pay for many of the projects that have been completed in our school to date, and will be completed in the future. Our legislators (from both parties) are not keen on the idea of changing the purpose of revenue that was voted on and approved by a referendum of voters. Keep that in mind, the SAVE fund was established by a vote of the people in a county by county referendum. You, the voters have a say in how this penny was (and is) being spent. It is all laid out for you in our Revenue Purposes Statement. Any proposal that would shift funds from the SAVE, any portion thereof, no matter how small or large would go against the wishes and the will of the voters.

This is not the first time that voters have had an opportunity to weigh in on matters of taxation in Iowa. You may recall in 2010 Iowans voted to set up a constitutionally protected trust fund for the purposes of protecting and enhancing water quality. That's right, water quality was an issue brought before the voters. The trust is to be funded by 3/8 of one penny the next time sales tax is increased. One could implicitly argue that voters agreed at that time to raise the sales tax. The trouble is, the trust has never been funded.

So, it would appear that we have two issues of taxation where voters weighed in: water quality and how SAVE is to be allocated. And in both instances, action is being taken or proposed that seems to be contrary to the wishes of the voters.

That is the reason why our board has identified the preservation and protection of the statewide penny for school infrastructure and further supports the repeal of the 2029 sunset of this penny. Because without this funding stream, many of the projects, upgrades, and renovations that we have completed now and in the future would not be possible.

Don't forget to vote November 8!

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