RPS vote should pass with a wild majority - Beside the Point


Fort Madison school officials and community volunteers have jumped through just about every hoop they can to try and upgrade district facilities.

The latest plan, after district officials went back to the drawing board for a fourth time to try and bring the district's facilities into the 21st century, impacts all Fort Madison School District students, not just the PreK-3rd grade students.

But it all depends on a majority vote of a Revenue Purpose Statement that will be in front of district voters on Tuesday.

The last three attempts to approve a bond measure to build a new PreK-3rd grade building failed only due to the state's archaic supermajority rules that require 60% approval.

This RPS vote requires a 50%+1 simple majority - but this latest move should have a much bigger majority and this vote shouldn't even be close.

Polling is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Fort Madison Public Library in Fort Madison, Grace Bible Church in Wever, and the American Legion Hall in West Point.

The scenario currently being proposed is to move PreK-6th grade into the Fort Madison Middle School with $10.3 million in additions and site work. Seventh and eighth grade students would be moved into the current Fort Madison High School with $41.1 million in additions, renovations, site work, and physical needs.

All the middle school work and $14.7 million of the high school work would be done in the first phase of the project. That would be funded with $8.8 million of the current Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, and about $16 million from an extension of the SAVE funds through 2051.

This phase would require no additional tax burden on district taxpayers.

The second phase, which includes the remainder of the high school work, would require additional funding sources for about $26.5 million.

Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said at that point all options would be on the table including a possible third extension of the SAVE funds by the state, another voted PPEL levy, a general obligation bond, or the district’s cash reserves – or a combination of options.

The plans address the most common concern of parents over the past three failed attempts which was transportation and drop offs. Both plans have enhanced designations for drop off, turn arounds, and exits and entries, so traffic flows efficiently at both locations.

But the biggest win here is that all district students benefit from the facility upgrades and there's no additional property tax burden on the $25 million first phase of the work.

No one can say at this point that the diligence hasn't been done in every way, shape, and form to get our students into contemporary learning environments.

District officials have reached out to the community for input again and spent a tremendous amount of time investigating options to retire the outdated Richardson and Lincoln elementary schools.

Now is a time when district officials should be able to devote all their time to student learning and performance measures as that shell game continues with the Iowa Board of Education.

We shouldn't add our own shell game to the mix by constantly moving the target on how this district gets students into contemporary learning facilities.

This is a solid plan that will put off additional property taxes while putting our students and future students in the best position that we, as district voters, will allow.

And pay attention to the bills that are coming fast and furious out of the Iowa Legislature.

Bills that reign in early voting and perceived censorship, both issues many Republicans across the country blame for Democrats taking back the White House and Congress; and now a bill specifically aimed at retroactively threatening the license of Des Moines Public School Superintendent Thomas Ahart. Ahart maintained a local decision to keep DM public schools closed during the pandemic against directives straight from Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education.

Whether the decision to do that was right or wrong is debatable for sure, but to go back and punish instead of looking forward, is petty and a bit vindictive.

State Sen. Jeff Reichman (R-Montrose) managed a floor bill through the Senate this week that could allow veterans to use GI Bill funds to pay for law enforcement academy training. That's a solid bill that has the potential to widen a current shallow pool of candidates for Iowa's sheriffs and police chiefs.

Now legislators need to keep their collective eye on campaign commitments to work on lowering health care costs, bring jobs to Lee County, and help get existing jobs filled and wages growing, while keeping a closer eye on bills that could hurt TIF programs essential to rural Iowa economies - but that's Beside the Point.

beside the point, Chuck Vandenberg, education, election, fort madison, March 2, Pen City Current, Revenue Purpose Statement


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