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The Scarlet & Black

IoWhat is going on in politics? Bond issue benefits local education

On Feb. 6, members of the Grinnell-Newburg School District will vote on a $60 million bond issue proposed by both the Board of Education and the Superintendent. If the “yes” votes exceed 60 percent, then property taxes will be raised by $2.60 for every $1,000 a property is assessed. But a passing vote will mean much more than a change in policy. These results would represent a contrast to the undervaluation of education at the state and federal level, as well as address inaccessibility of earlier building practices. 

For years, the State of Iowa has consistently been underfunding education. Since the recession in 2008, there has been a consistent pattern of belt-tightening by the State Government. While this fiscal policy may have made some sense during the recession, the financial prospects of Iowa have vastly improved since 2008. The state has attempted to match inflation with one to two percent increases in statewide funding for K-12 education. In 2015, even this was too much for the Republicans, and there was no increase in funding for education. This lack of commitment from the state government does not match the reality in many Iowa locales. There are many communities in Iowa where the public school district is the largest employer. While our public school system may not be the largest employer in town, it remains the backbone of our community.

These schools educate the children of their communities among a host of other responsibilities. But to continue to perform these roles, our schools need to be funded and repaired. Right now, most of the heating and air conditioning systems are well beyond their expected lifetimes. The system in Bailey Park Elementary is more than 50 years old. This is true of many of the other facilities that are used by the children of the community. The school district wants to side cut this issue by constructing a building for all of the elementary school children in the school district. This facility would unify the elementary students, cut down on travel times for teachers working between the three elementary schools and effectively utilize the resources available for the students. And, at the end of the project, this building would be fully updated to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Like many of the buildings on Grinnell College’s campus, the elementary, middle and high schools were all built before the passage of the ADA and were grandfathered without major changes. So, while legally compliant, they are not actually fully accessible buildings. Additionally, there is a need to go beyond the ADA standards, standards which most disability activists thought of as the first step towards a fully accessible nation, not the final step. 

In addition to the new elementary school, there would be significant updates to the middle school. There would be updated heating systems, construction to allow for more natural light, structural updates to ensure full ADA compliance and pick-up lane updates to ensure the students, parents and bus drivers are safe at the end of the school day. Similar changes would be made at the high school, where ADA compliance and technology improvements are the priority. Additionally, there will be a renewed push for college and career readiness, so that those who want to enter the workforce immediately will be supported and trained, as well as those who are seeking to continue their education.

While it is incredibly important to consider the benefits of what this vote will contribute, it is also important to understand the costs, especially since economic changes like a substantial tax increase do affect many parts of the community. These plans will cost $60 million over the next 20 years and will be covered through a net increase of $2.60 for every $1,000 of property value assessed. A homeowner in Grinnell would see their property taxes increase substantially. With the average home in Grinnell valued at $167,893 and only half of the overall value taxable, this would lead to an increase of $230.11. It’s no doubt that places an additional burden on families in our communities who own their homes. It will also affect others in the community, raising rents and affecting the bottom line of those families. This tax increase is definitively an investment that the entire community needs to consider wisely. However, I think it will be a worthwhile investment to make up for the inaccessible practices of previous generations and budget shortfalls of our current state government.   

— Austin Wadle ’17

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