2017 General Obligation Bond Referendum FAQ

  • The Questions and Answers in this FAQ are intended to provide a better understanding of the General Obligation Bond referendum and related process.  Questions are broken into the following sections:

    1. General Obligation Bond Questions
    2. Tax Rate Questions
    3. Facility Master Plan Questions
    4. Capacity and Enrollment Questions
    5. School Board Campaign Participation Questions
    6. School District Campaign Participation Questions
    7. School Personnel Campaign Participation Questions
    8. Student Campaign Participation Questions
    9. Volunteer Campaign Participation Questions
    10. Campaign Participation Questions

    If you have a question regarding the District's 2017 General Obligation Bond referendum that you would like to see added to this list, please utilize this form to submit your question. Questions and answers will be posted to the below FAQ list. We will make every attempt to address all questions that are submitted in a timely manner.

    General Obligation Bond Questions

    Q. What is the question that will appear on the September 12th ballot regarding the bond?

    The September 12th ballot will include the following question:

    • Shall the Board of Directors of the Iowa City Community School District in the County of Johnson, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $191,525,000 to provide funds to address health, safety, and accessibility issues in all school buildings, including air conditioning all school buildings, reducing the use of  temporary classroom structures in the District, addressing classroom, lunchroom, and gymnasium overcrowding, and dedicating rooms to art, music, prekindergarten, and science by constructing, furnishing and equipping a new building, constructing additions to and/or remodeling, repairing, and improving the school buildings remaining in the District’s Facilities Master Plan, as follows:  Mann and Lincoln renovations, Liberty High athletic facilities construction and site improvements, new elementary school construction in North Liberty and site improvements, West High renovation, South East and North Central Junior High additions, Shimek renovation, City High addition and upgrades, Wood addition, Wickham upgrades, Garner and Northwest additions, Liberty High addition, Horn renovation, Kirkwood addition, Borlaug, Alexander, and Lemme additions, and Tate High addition and upgrades?

    Q. Is this a state record for a bond?

    This depends on how you measure the bond.  To our knowledge, the total dollar amount of the proposed bond would be the largest for the state of Iowa. The bond will fund the remaining 20 projects in the Facility Master Plan and will increase property taxes by less than $1.00 per $100,000 of assessed value.  Of the ten largest districts in Iowa, the Iowa City Community School District has the lowest property tax rate.  If the bond passes, the District will still have the lowest property tax rate of the ten largest school districts in Iowa.

    Q. Is a school district required to complete the projects listed in the ballot question?

    Generally speaking, a school district must complete the projects as described in the ballot language. However, if a project as described on the ballot becomes impossible or extraordinary circumstances arise the District may not be required to complete the project. As an example, if a tornado destroys a building before an addition could be completed a school district may be excused from completing the project. Similarly, a school district generally may not use bond proceeds on projects not included in the ballot language. However, if a project as described on the ballot becomes impossible or extraordinary circumstances arise, a school district may be able to use bond proceeds for a similar project. In the tornado example above, if a school district originally intended to construct a classroom addition to the existing building which was destroyed by a tornado, it may be possible for the school district to instead use the budgeted amount to construct additional classrooms as part of the reconstructed building, rather than as an addition. A definitive answer would be highly dependent on the facts and circumstances at that time.

    Q. The Iowa code requires that the Board "shall" issue the bonds if the election is successful.  Does that mean a school district is required to borrow the entire dollar amount of general obligation bonds as stated in the ballot ($$$) even if the statewide sales tax is extended?

    If the bond question passes, the Iowa Code requires general obligation bonds “not to exceed” the dollar amount stated in the ballot be issued. Although we have no guidance from the Iowa courts on this question, the plain language of the Code suggests that some amount of general obligation bonds (not to exceed the dollar amount as stated in the ballot) must be issued to fund the ballot question projects. If the full authorized amount of the general obligation bonds is not needed to complete the ballot question projects because other funding sources become available (i.e., SAVE funds), then a lesser amount of general obligation bonds may be issued. A complete analysis will be highly dependent on the various facts and circumstances at the time, including but not limited to, the timing and terms of the legislation enacted to extend the SAVE tax (if ever adopted by the legislature), the effect on timing of the projects, the financial feasibility of using SAVE debt or general obligation debt, interest rates, etc.

    Q. If the answer to the above question is “NO”, does that mean the District is committed to "spending" the dollar amount stated in the ballot on the projects, even if a portion is from sales tax revenues?

    A bond ballot question only pertains to the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund the projects listed. A school district may use other revenue sources, if and when available, to fund various portions of any of the projects (see the 2 previous questions above). Please be mindful that projects are usually completed over a multi-year period and the amount of money spent on the projects will be influenced by many factors, among which include whether construction bids received are under or over the estimated amounts for each project, whether the SAVE tax is enacted (including timing and terms of enactment, if ever), the interest rate at which the bonds are sold, etc.

    Q.  Were other options explored to reduce the amount of the bond?

    Yes. The Board, with community input, considered splitting the bond vote into a series of smaller bond votes.  To avoid project prioritization issues, inter-district competition factionalization, and bond fatigue concerns, the Board voted to bring the full bond to the community for a vote.

    Q. What other funds are available for facilities?  What is PPEL and how can it be used?

    There are no other funds available to Iowa schools other than PPEL, SAVE, or General Obligation Bonds to make facility improvements. PPEL comes to the District in two forms: the $1.34 voted levy that is in place until 2025 and the 33 cents portion, which is approved each year by the Board during the certified budget process. Only 20% of the annual PPEL funding stream has been dedicated to the Facilities Master Plan. About 80% is approved each year by the Board in what is called lifecycle project budgets. This money is used to repair and maintain the building infrastructure from playground equipment to roof maintenance to classroom furniture. The District did not run out of money. The Facilities Master Plan funding process was established by the Board of Education at the time the plan was approved.  The PPEL budget is posted to the district website.

    Q. What happens if the bond passes?

    We continue to transform the learning environment delivering 21st Century classrooms for our students and our staff.  Air conditioning, renovations, and capacity increases to accommodate student growth continue as planned by the Facilities Master Plan.

    Q.  What if the bond passes and the board changes its mind on what projects need to be completed?

    As a general rule, ballot propositions should be drafted as precisely as possible; at the same time, the Iowa Courts recognize that their phrasing encompasses some measure of Board discretion and leeway and that inaccuracies in drafting do not always involve material matters. The particular language of the ballot and facts and circumstances at the time will be important considerations for the Board.  

    The bond referendum provides voter approval to the District to sell bonds for many projects in accordance with the Facilities Master Plan.   Operationally, the District will sell the actual bonds as approved by the referendum to fund the projects in increments with various legal requirements.   These incremental sales will list specific projects for which the funds from that sale must be used for only those projects specifically within a 24-month period. 

    The bond language makes it clear that the purpose of the bond is to fund the remaining projects on the Board-approved Facilities Master Plan.  The 10-year Facilities Master Plan is based on projected population growth provided by professional demographers.  The Board will continue to receive updated biennial population growth projections.  If necessary, based on those projections, the Board can adjust the size and scope of a particular project.

    Q. What happens to the bond referendum if the Iowa legislature takes action to extend the sunset of the current SAVE law? 

    The Board would further review the Facilities Master Plan and the funding options, but the extended SAVE sunset would allow the district the flexibility to fund the Facilities Master Plan with all bonds, all SAVE borrowing or a mix of these funding options.

    Q. What happens if the bond fails?

    The Facilities Master Plan will not have the funding to move forward. Needs such as air condition, renovations, and capacity increases to accommodate student growth will not happen as planned.

    • Planned air conditioning improvements will not occur and school cancellations due to high heat will continue.
    • Planned additions and a new elementary school will not occur resulting in up to 40% of students being educated in modular classrooms.
    • Planned improvements in ADA accessibility and school security will not occur.
    • Planned operational efficiencies including geothermal, energy efficient lighting, energy efficient windows, etc. will not occur resulting in increased pressure on the General Operating Fund.
    • To delay the remaining projects in the Facilities Master Plan will be expensive.
      - Construction inflation is running at 3-5%. A one-year delay would increase the total plan costs as much as $5.6M - $9.4M dollars!
      - Borrowing interest rates continue to rise. A one-half percent increase in the interest rate will increase borrowing costs in excess of $11M dollars.
    • The realities of Iowa weather also come into play in that any delay results in at least a year delay due to losing a construction season.
    • There will be intensive competition for any capital funding resources that remain.
    • The current Facilities Master Plan took years to develop and involved hundreds of hours of community meetings. Developing an alternative Facilities Master Plan could take a considerable period of time. 

    Q. Will more schools close if the bond is approved?

    No.  If the bond passes, the District can fully fund the Facilities Master Plan that allocates millions of dollars to renovate schools that are otherwise vulnerable to closure.  With the exception of Hoover Elementary School, the Facilities Master Plan commits to keeping all schools open.  Hoover ES is the exception based on its location in proximity to City High School.  The Facilities Master Planning Steering Committee determined that the additions needed at City HS required the acquisition of additional property.

    Q. Is the current bond consistent with the Secure an Advance Vision for Education (SAVE which is formally known as SILO) and the Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) campaigns in the past?

    Yes, they are very consistent:

    • SAVE (formally known as SILO) authorized the District to complete:
      • Technology hardware upgrades
      • Family Resource Centers
      • New Secondary Gyms
      • Improvements in Safety and Security
      • Additions, Remodeling and Repair
      • Two New Elementary Schools
      • New North Corridor High School
      • Air Conditioning
      • Elementary multipurpose rooms/gyms
      • Handicap accessibility
    • RPS (Revenue Purpose Statement) authorized the District to:
      • Complete major renovations and upgrades to older schools
      • Purchase tracts of land for three new elementary buildings and new high school
      • Construct two new eastside elementary schools and one North Liberty Elementary School
      • Construct an addition to Penn Elementary in North Liberty
      • Construct an addition to North Central Junior High
      • Construction of a new High School

    The current Facilities Master Plan includes improvements and new construction across the District. It addresses the needs of our existing student body while also being conscious of the exciting student population growth that is taking place.  Through the Facilities Master Plan, we are able to focus on what our students need now while also ensuring that we are providing for the next generation of District students.

    Q. How did we get to the point where we spent or allocated all of our PPEL and SAVE funds to 2029?  How did we run out of money?  Why did we borrow 70% against our future earnings?

    Please see explanation in the question above regarding SAVE funds. PPEL comes to the District in two forms: the $1.34 voted levy that is in place until 2025 and the 33 cents portion, which is approved each year by the Board during the certified budget process. Only 20% of the annual PPEL funding stream has been dedicated to the Facilities Master Plan. About 80% is approved each year by the Board in what is called lifecycle project budgets. This money is used to repair and maintain the building infrastructure from playground equipment to roof maintenance to classroom furniture. The District did not run out of money. The Facilities Master Plan funding process was established by the Board of Education at the time the plan was approved.


    Tax Rate Questions

    Q. What is the impact on my taxes?

    For a home assessed at $100,000, bond passage will result in a property tax increase of $4.25 per month or $51.05 per year as shown below.  This rate could decrease over time as the property tax base in the District continues to grow.

    Homeowner Tax Impact Chart

    Q. How does our School Tax Rate compare to other Districts?

    For the current FY2017 school year, the District has the lowest property tax rate of Iowa’s ten largest school districts. The chart below shows the District’s property tax rate is 99 cents lower than the next lowest district.  If the bond passes, the District will still have the lowest property tax rate of Iowa’s 10 largest school districts.

    Top ten Iowa school districts comparison tax rate chart


    Facility Master Plan Questions

    Q. How did the Board decide the order of the projects in the Facilities Master Plan?

    As part of the development of the Facilities Master Plan, the District received a comprehensive analysis of all District facilities provided by professional facilities experts.  Using that information, the Board set a schedule of projects that included new construction, facility remodels, and facility additions to be distributed between elementary, junior high school, and high school facilities and further distributed in each of the three high school attendance areas.

    Q.  Why lock yourself into specific dollar amounts for specific schools in advance?  Does this leave little flexibility for future boards and what if there is an emergency?

    The District is following the plan set in motion when the Facilities Master Plan was originally approved in December 2013. The Board had asked that the District first spend the SAVE cash on hand that was being set aside at the rate of $3M per year to fund a new high school building. About $18M had been accumulated at the time the Facilities Master Plan was first approved. Once this cash was spent the Board asked to maximize the use of the SAVE revenue stream by borrowing. Given historically low interest rates and an excellent bond rating, the District has been able to leverage this to a significant and positive degree. By putting much needed renovations and new construction in place sooner rather than later also mitigates the construction materials inflationary cycle. The District only committed 75% of the annual SAVE revenue stream to service principal and interest payments on borrowed funds. This allows the District to respond to any downward trend in sales tax funding and still make all obligation payments. Once it is known that the debt obligations have been satisfied, the Board uses the remaining 25% or about $3M per year to fund classroom technology. 

    Should there be an emergency the Board could suspend the annual lifecycle PPEL budget for a limited time to address the emergency.

    Q. New capacity numbers – where did the new template come from?  How do they compare to current enrollment numbers?

    The template is a tool that has been developed over the past 17 years by Iowa architects and educators. The initial purpose was to define the educational programming spaces required in schools by type (Elementary, Junior and Senior High) and size from small to large schools. It has also been used to define the deficiencies in existing schools so that limited resources can be better allocated to make our buildings more efficient.

    Q. Operational efficiency vs capacity.  The total future capacity is quite a bit higher than the projected enrollment. If we make the proposed changes, the operational efficiency at some schools is compromised.  Is there a targeted number of overage?

    The Template defines the optimal capacity for a building based on the known programming and it assumes maximum classroom utilization. It also assumes a 10% swing to allow for years that may bump up or down in enrollments.

    Q. Will Horn Elementary School be getting new art and music rooms?  If not, will the current art and music rooms be renovated?

    It is not planned for Horn Elementary School to receive a new addition; however, some new interior finishes are included in the budget. No major renovations are currently planned for any interior rooms.  Major additions were completed at Horn Elementary School in 2005 and 2010, including the addition of a new gym, six new general education classrooms, a behavior focus classroom and three offices utilized for Guidance, ELL and Resource.

    Q. Will Wickham Elementary School be getting new art and music rooms?  If not, will the current art and music rooms be renovated?

    Wickham Elementary School is scheduled to receive a new addition with art & music rooms included.


    Capacity and Enrollment Questions


    Q. What is the district’s capacity percentage goal? 

    The District goal is to have buildings at 85-95% capacity.  This allows flexibility in how buildings are used, allows the District to accommodate students who move during the school year, and allows for future growth.

    Q. What role does the move from split grade staffing to whole grade staffing play in the capacity discussion? 

    In buildings where split grade staffing was used in the past, the move to whole grade staffing has required additional classrooms.

    Q. How do specialized programs affect building capacity and enrollment projections? 

    The District’s goal is to place students in special programming for English Language Learners and Special Education in their home school or as close to the home school as possible.  For example, the District goal is to have English Language Learner programs in all elementary schools.  During the 2017-2018 school year, the District will have programming in all secondary buildings and in 16 of 20 elementary schools. Where the District is unable to have the programming in the home school we try to place students in the closest school with such programming.  For very specialized programs, the District frequently places programs in schools with the greatest excess capacity with the intent to house them there until regular education programming has a demand for the space. 

    Older schools tend to have large, similarly sized classrooms.  In these schools, the District may place special programs in a classroom that is larger than necessary giving the false impression of excess capacity in those schools. 

    Q. Why will our buildings be near the bottom of our capacity goal range in 2022? 

    For years, the District has added capacity through the placement of modular buildings. Moving that large number of students into “brick and mortar” schools is a significant task.  Building additional school capacity allows the District to do this and proactively anticipate future growth.  The goal is to put the District in a position where the addition of new modular units is not necessary.  However, there will not be significant excess capacity at the end of the bond projects. 

    Q. Why will Penn Elementary be over capacity in 2022? 

    The current numbers for Penn are for the existing Penn Attendance Area.  Following the completion of the new elementary school in North Liberty some of Penn’s students will be assigned to the new attendance area. This change is planned to help relieve overcrowding at Penn Elementary School.  As enrollment grows in various areas of the District and additional classroom space is added through the Facilities Master Plan, the Board will be reviewing attendance boundaries to reduce/eliminate overcrowding at current facilities. 

    Q. Why will Hoover (American Legion Road) have so many empty seats in 2022? 

    District enrollment projections from DeJong Richter include housing developments for which builders have already applied for building permits. District enrollment projections do not include presumptive, but not yet platted, developments.  The District expects some additional enrollment growth beyond that indicated in the DeJong Richter enrollment projections.  This includes areas around new elementary schools where new housing developments are anticipated, but not yet platted.   

    Q. What will happen if our enrollment does not grow by as much as expected? 

    If District enrollment growth is less than projected, the District will have the opportunity to consider adding additional English Language Learner programs, Special Education programs, public preschool programs or other curricular programs or modifications to class sizes or grade staffing subject to budget constraints. 

    Q. Why do we already have an addition at Alexander? 

    When Alexander Elementary School was built, the District used the standard staffing model.  Following the opening of Alexander the Board passed the Weighted Resource Allocation Model (WRAM) which significantly lowered class sizes at Alexander.  With the same population of students, there were now more classes at each grade level and there were no longer enough classrooms for those classes. 

    Q. How does our WRAM affect our capacity? 

    The Board passed a Weighted Resource Allocation Model (WRAM) that lowered class sizes in the six elementary schools with the greatest needs to aspirational goals of no more than 20 students in grades K-2 and no more than 26 students in grades 3-6.  That means that in those schools with WRAM staffing the same number of students are now placed into a larger number of classes requiring more classrooms to house them. 

    Q. How will we address needs beyond 2024? 

    The District is planning to review and evaluate facility needs beyond 2024 beginning in approximately 2020 when both the enrollment trends and existing facility improvements and expansion are more clearly defined. 

    Q. What do DeJong Richter enrollment projections include? 

    The most recent set of projections utilize live birth data from the Iowa Department of Public Health, census data, and building permits to project the number of new students entering the District.  However, they rely most heavily on cohort survival analysis that uses historical cohort enrollments to project anticipated gains/losses.  Since the boundary change makes this latter approach difficult at the building-level, the focus of the most recent enrollment projections is on District-level and grade-level growth, rather than growth in a particular building.


    School Board Campaign Participation Questions

    Q. Can a school board spend money to advocate the passage (or defeat) of a bond issue?

    No. Public money cannot be used for political purposes, including attempts to pass or defeat a ballot issue. The Iowa Code provides: 

    • The state and the governing body of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state shall not expend or permit the expenditure of public moneys for political purposes, including expressly advocating the passage or defeat of a ballot issue. 
    • This section shall not be construed to limit the freedom of speech of officials or employees of the state or of officials or employees of a governing body of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state. This section also shall not be construed to prohibit the state or a governing body of a political subdivision of the state from expressing an opinion on a ballot issue through the passage of a resolution or proclamation. 
    • Iowa Code § 68A.505 (2009) (emphasis added).  This statute provides the boundaries that define the appropriate conduct of governing officials and employees ONCE THE BOARD HAS ACCEPTED THE PETITION AND CALLED THE ELECTION.

    Q. Can a school board spend money to distribute informational material about an upcoming bond issue?

    Yes, as long as that information does not advocate the passage or defeat of the bond issue. A school board has the authority to disseminate information to the public concerning the reasons for the bond issue, such as needs, plans, and anticipated costs. It is important that this information remain neutral and not promote a “yes” or “no” vote.

    Q:  Can a school board member, superintendent or a school district employee campaign for or against a bond issue?

    Yes. The Iowa Code specifically states that it does not limit the freedom of speech of officials or employees of a governing body such as a school board. Board members, officials, and employees must be sure they are acting as citizens of the community in promoting their position on the bond issue.

    Q: What if several board members join the same citizens’ committee?

    School board members who participate in a citizens’ committee should keep in mind the requirements of the Open Meetings law. If a quorum of the school board is present at a meeting of the campaign committee, the provisions of Iowa Code chapter 21 (Official Meetings Must be Open to the Public) may apply.


    School District Campaign Participation Questions

    Q:  Can the school district sponsor a “Vote Yes” poster contest for students to be completed during the school day or as a school assignment?

    No. In a May 24, 1982 letter opinion, the Attorney General stated that a school sponsorship of a “Vote Yes” poster contest or vote yes message in a school newsletter is impermissible. We believe the same answer would apply to a “Vote Yes” essay contest.

    Q:  Can a school-sponsored parent newsletter advocate a vote yes or no position?

    No, because it is direct use of public funds. This is different; however, than a student publication where the District may only restrict speech consistent with the First Amendment or an advertisement in a District publication that normally accepts such ads.

    Q: Can students take home information produced by the Vote Yes Committee or the PTA urging a vote yes message which has been distributed either through the school mail system or by teachers to students before school is let out?

    No. The District may not allow either the opposition or the Vote Yes Committee to use its mail system to send information home with a student.

    Q: Can a candidate post a campaign sign on a parade float sponsored by the District?

    No. If it is a school-sponsored float, political signs are not permitted because the display would constitute a prohibited use of public funds for a political purpose.

    Q: Can the ESC or schools be used for people to meet about the bond?  What are the limitations?

    As long as the District allows other similar groups (i.e., like a city vote yes/no bond committee, or a political candidate committee) to use school facilities and in accordance with the District's Facilities Use Policy, then the District may allow the Vote Yes and Vote No groups to use District facilities to meet.  The District should ensure it is not subsidizing or allowing use of the facility by the vote yes/no committees which is inconsistent with the District's Facilities Use Policy. 


    School Personnel Campaign Participation Questions

    Q: Can a school district employee, during his or her work hours, advocate that students, teachers, or parents vote, as long as they do not advocate HOW to vote?

    Yes, but read the next question and answer.

    Q: Can a school district employee, during his or her work hours, advocate that students, teachers, or parents vote by absentee ballot?

    No. Advocating voting absentee is prohibited by a separate code section that makes it a simple misdemeanor for a public employee during work hours to solicit absentee ballots. However, public employees may advise students, teachers, or parents of the opportunity to vote absentee. The difference is between advising of an opportunity and advocacy.

    Q: Can a school district employee wear buttons during the work day that state “Vote Yes”?

    An employee, in their individual capacity, may choose to wear a button as long as it is not usually prohibited by District policy. The District, however, may not encourage or discourage the employee from wearing or not wearing buttons. T-shirts are different than buttons. The school district may have a policy that prohibits employees from wearing shirts that contain political messages, advertising or logos. As a result, it is improper for an employee in his/her official capacity to wear a t-shirt either advocating for or against the ballot issue because of their position of authority over students and because the District has consistently enforced its policies, rules, and regulations regarding the wearing of t-shirts.

    Q: Can a school district employee have a “Vote Yes” bumper sticker on their car in a school parking lot?

    Yes, the vote yes bumper sticker is on the employee’s personal car and is not subject to control by the District. 

    Q: Can a school district employee tell employees to vote yes during a meeting held during the school day?

    No. Because public funds cannot be used to advocate for or against a bond issue, the District may not use any facilities or public funds to support the ballot issue. In this case, the principal would be using his/her position, as well as school facilities, to urge a vote yes position on the ballot issue which is impermissible.

    Q: Can a school district employee at a PTA meeting held outside the school day urge a vote yes message at the meeting?

    Yes, but read this answer. School officials and employees are prohibited from advocating for or against the ballot issue in their official capacity as District employees. However, school officials and employees are free to work as individuals to advocate for or against the issue. The Principal or school official attending such meeting and urging a vote yes message should make it very clear that he/she is acting in an individual capacity and not as a school official or in their capacity as a District employee when urging such a message. See May 24, 1982 letter opinion from Iowa Attorney General.

    Q: Can a school district employee use the district’s telephone, e-mail system, fax machine, or website to advocate a vote yes or no position on a ballot issue?

    No, because this is a direct use of public funds to advocate for or against a ballot issue.

    Q: Can a school employee use social media to advocate for the bond?

    As long as the social media account used is the employee’s personal account and sent/transmitted/posted using their personal computers/devices, there should be no issues.  The employees should also be careful in their wording to make sure they do not represent or imply that the opinion/view stated in the personal social media posting, is somehow the District’s. 


    Student Campaign Participation Questions

    Q: Can a student advocate (1) voting, or (2) a particular position on a ballot issue during school hours?

    Yes, if it is consistent with District policies, rules and regulations that govern student speech. Because the student is not an employee of the District, there is no restriction on the student’s speech, except as allowed by the First Amendment.

    Q: Can a student wear a “Vote Yes” t-shirt to an open house held at the school building?

    Yes. Because the student is not an employee of the District, there is no prohibition on what the student wears to school as long as it conforms with the District’s policies, rules, and regulations

    Q: Can a student wearing a “Vote Yes” t-shirt sit with an adult at an open house and distribute brochures and flyers promoting a vote yes message?

    Yes. The problem is not the student sitting with the adult at an open house or the student wearing the “Vote Yes” t-shirt in this scenario. The District is prohibited, through its employees, from displaying political posters, brochures, flyers, or promotional literature of any type that advocates for or against a ballot issue in areas accessible to the public. This rule does not apply to students and student speech.


    Volunteer Campaign Participation Questions

    Q: What are the governing rules for establishing an organization to support or oppose a public measure such as a bond issue?

    Iowa Campaign Disclosure Act regulates these citizens’ organizations. See Iowa Code Chapter 68A. In addition, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Finance Board has established rules for the operation of campaign committees. The specific code sections of importance for ballot issue committees are: 

    • 68A.102 (Definitions)
    • 68A.201 (Organization Statement)
    • 68A.203 (Committee Treasurer)
    • 68A.401 (Reports Filed with Board)
    • 68A.402 (Disclosure Report Due Dates)
    • 68A.402A (Information Disclosed on Reports)

    Q: What is the difference between campaigning for a ballot issue and campaigning for an individual who is running for office?

    One important distinction between ballot issues and the election of individuals to public office is that corporations may contribute to a ballot issue campaign, but not to the campaigns of individual candidates.  See Iowa Code § 68A.605 (2009).

    Q: Can campaign volunteers use school district property to operate a phone bank to promote a position on the bond issue or to poll voters?

    No. Iowa Code § 721.2(8) prohibits public employees from “Permit[ing] persons to use the property owned by the state or a subdivision or agency of the state to operate a political phone bank for any of the following purposes:

    1. To poll voters on their preference for candidates of ballot measures at an election; however, this paragraph does not apply to authorized research at an educational institution.
    2. To solicit funds for a political candidate or organization.
    3. To urge support for a candidate or ballot measure to voters.”


    Campaign Participation Questions

    Q: What is the difference between campaigning for a ballot issue and campaigning for an individual who is running for office?

    When a campaign committee is formed, it is extremely important that the procedures are followed. Persons responsible for filing reports, preparing campaign materials, and other campaign activities must comply with the statutes and rules to avoid negative publicity, as well as reprimands or fines.

    The responses in this FAQ are not intended to remove or restrict the rights of Board of Education members, District employees when acting outside of their school duties, or members of the public, however, care should be taken when communicating information regarding the bond referendum.