Q. For the past year or more the four school districts (Davenport, North Scott, Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley) have spent well over $20 million each of the 1-cent sales tax to make improvements to their infrastructure. Does the state collect that much money or are schools borrowing ahead of what is being collected? -- Jeneane, Bettendorf
A. We contacted the Davenport, North Scott, Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley community school districts and the Iowa Department of Revenue regarding your questions.
Dawn Saul, communications/media relations, Davenport Community Schools, responded:
"The Davenport Community Schools did issue bonds a few years ago -- $10 million/year on two different years. I think that's what the question means by "borrowing ahead." When we took this action it was after getting advice from the district's financial consultants. By moving forward with some projects that were already budgeted in the Long Range Facilities Plan, we were able to hold down costs for materials in some instances (this is one potential advantage). The last time we had done some was about 10 years previously. It is not a step we have taken without careful thought and planning."
Joe Stutting, superintendent of North Scott Community Schools, responded:
"We did a bond referendum on the sales tax revenue a few years ago. This allowed for us to complete bigger projects than the yearly revenue would allow."
Dallon Christensen, director of finance for Bettendorf Community School District, responded:
"The Bettendorf Community School District (BCSD) receives approximately $4 million in sales tax revenue each year from the state of Iowa. This amount is based on a formula that takes our enrollment and the overall amount of sales tax revenue collected statewide into account. At the present time, BCSD has not borrowed against our future sales tax revenue in order to fund infrastructure projects. However, districts are able to secure funding backed by future sales tax revenues."
Jim Spelhaug, Pleasant Valley Community Schools superintendent, responded:
"Pleasant Valley is using the 1-cent proceeds to construct additions to our buildings (or build new ones as with Hopewell or Forest Grove to be) to keep up with our growing enrollment. Our historical practice was to escrow our receipts until we had a sufficient reserve to take on the next project. Across the last several years, our rate of growth and the size of projects outpaced our ability to stay with that model. About three years ago we began borrowing against future sales tax proceeds in order to stay up with space needs."
The Iowa Department of Revenue had not responded at the time Ask the Times went to press. We will include any response in a follow up.