CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) — Nearly 360,000 Iowans cast ballots in yesterday’s election.
Voters in Cedar Rapids approved a purpose statement for a school funding tax called SAVE, Secure an Advanced Vision for Education.
It’s a local option sales tax that many districts across the state are relying on.
“We’re so excited 62% of the voters voted yes to investing to the kids in our community,” said Akwi Nji, spokeswoman for the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
Voters in Cedar Rapids gave the district the green light in spending SAVE fund dollars for a variety of needs from information technology infrastructure to remodel and repair costs.
“Those funds go primarily for infrastructure, facilities, and technology. So in our situation, we used millions of dollars towards our one to one roll out, so our digital literacy program,” said Nji.
The one to one program, which began this year, provides 6,000 chrome books to high school students.
A legislative advocate for the Urban Education Network, Margaret Buckton, said it’s a way to pay for projects that may get pushed to the side as budgets tighten.
“It also allows schools to invest in technology such as you know safe and secure entrances, and some of the computer systems that help students learn and districts operate properly,” said Buckton, “It’s a really important thing especially in rural areas is an alternative to property taxes to pay for things like buses and transportation equipment.”
Especially as many school districts are grappling with how to pay for needed updates and expansions.
“The biggest challenges they have right now really is on the general fund side, so having the save there for technology and buses it might allow them to save a little bit of money in their general fund that they would have to spend for that if they didn’t have the property tax base to pay for it,” said Buckton.
Meaning the fund is especially critical for rural districts or rapidly growing ones that need new facilities. That’s exactly the spot CRCSD is in with several aging facilities.
“Everything from the roof to mechanical, HVAC, ADA compliance. So we’re really ensuring we’re creating as accessible of an environment as possible.”
CRCSD will soon begin construction for its facility master plan. While some SAVE money may go towards those projects in the future. The district would still have been able to begin construction even if the SAVE measure did not pass.
“Even if this had not passed we would have had the funds to build the first two schools and then pause, which was always the intent,” said Nji.
During the pause, the district and school board will evaluate its effectiveness in solving the district’s capacity and facility challenges.
Voters also elected four new school board members. While the facilities master plan is still a go. The new board members will be involved in evaluating the facilities master plan’s success.
The SAVE fund had expired. However, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an extension back in May that will ensure districts’ abilities to utilize the fund until January 1, 2051, which is projected to generate a total of $26.2 billion between 2019 and 2051, according to the State.