While the first session of the 88th General Assembly isn't scheduled to begin until January of 2019, the school board has been busy discussing legislative issues that are important to our school district. These topics will form and focus our conversation with candidates and elected officials now and when the legislature convenes in January. Our priorities will help articulate the basis of our advocacy efforts with legislators, and have been presented to the Iowa Association of School boards for consideration on the official platform of legislative issues for that organization. January may seem like a time in the distant future, but now is the time to engage with and understand these issues. After all, we have an election coming up in November! Every seat in the Iowa House of Representatives is up for election, along with half the Senate and the Governor's seat. We need your help in not only understanding these issues, but helping in our advocacy efforts. There are only five members of the school board. But there are hundreds of parents in our school district. Imagine the power of our collective voice! Now then, it wouldn't be proper to endorse any specific candidate, but it would be entirely appropriate for you to consider these issues and ask the candidates where they stand before casting your ballot. Over the course of the next several weeks, I'll be sharing the priorities identified by the board and explaining the importance of them to our school district.
|New windows in the 4th/5th grade wing are part of the scope|
of work included in Phase II of the elementary renovation project.
I imagine it won't come as any great surprise to anyone that the number one legislative priority for our school board is the extension of the statewide sales tax for school infrastructure, or SAVE. We have discussed this topic in depth and many times before in this blog so I don't feel it necessary to pile on or give any more examples of the projects we have been able to complete as a result of this fund. Or the jobs it has created right here in our own community. You need only to drive by our school to see the improvements. We are on the downhill side of Phase II of the elementary renovation project, and in the final analysis the cost of this renovation will be somewhere close to $400,000. That follows Phase I which was completed last summer, with a final cost close to $600,000. Easy math right? In the last year we have spent close to $1,000,000 in renovations to the elementary school, and we are just getting started. If all goes according to plan, Phase III work will start as early as the frost is out of the ground next spring and will complete the elementary attendance center. The budget for this project is still under development, but we believe it will be in the range of $4-5 Million. It is our intention to complete all this work using our sales tax revenue.
For the budget year that began on July 1, 2018 we anticipate sales tax revenue for the district to be $649,240. Assuming a very conservative growth model over the remaining life of the sales tax this would result in millions of dollars in revenue for our school district. That's great, because we are going to need it. The bad news is that based on current law, after 2029 that revenue stream will dry up. I am pretty sure that after 2029 we won't have everything fixed or replaced. And assuming by some force of nature we did, even the most talented of maintenance crews can't prevent systems from just plain wearing out. Just like any homeowner, things need to be fixed, repaired, and in some instances replaced. It is a never ending cycle.
Some argue that 2029 is still quite a bit into the future and that it's premature to begin discussions about extending a revenue source that is still 11 years away from expiring. But many school districts (Hudson being one of them) count on future revenue projections when prioritizing needs and developing projects. Take for example our Phase III project discussed above. We don't have $4 or $5 Million on hand to finance the remaining renovations that are necessary. But since we know what our revenue projections look like, we can bond against that future revenue without impacting property taxes. Considering twenty years is the maximum number of years in which a school district can issue debt, the fact the current law expires in just eleven years significantly handicaps school districts. Absent sales tax revenue, schools would have to continue to defer projects or ask the voters to issue general obligation debt, which does impact your property taxes.
Look, there isn't any guarantee that we won't be discussing general obligation debt at some point in the future. You all have seen our master facility plan. In order to execute on some of the long term proposals in that vision we are going to need to have a serious conversation about financing. Nevertheless, there must be no mistake that what we have been able to accomplish in the last decade would not have been possible without the revenue generated by the sales tax. I can even list them again for you if it will help.