Reynolds signs school funding bill in Sioux City as district looks to finance more work
For more than 20 years, Sioux City has been the nexus of a 1-percent sales tax that helps funds school infrastructure in Iowa.
That connection continued Friday, May 24, 2019, as Gov. Kim Reynolds traveled to Iowa’s fourth largest city to sign a bill that extends the tax for 22 more years, until 2051.
The idea for the penny sales tax originated in Sioux City, where local leaders were searching for way to replace a series of aging schools without raising local property taxes. Woodbury County became the first of 99 counties to approve the local option tax in 1998. It as switched to a statewide sales tax in 2008, when then-Gov. Chet Culver signed the bill at Sioux City’s Irving Elementary School.
The Sioux City district devoted more than $240 million in sales tax revenue to finance 18 renovation or construction projects. The work has included replacing all the middle schools and most of the again elementary schools, some of which had dated to the late 1880s.
With the tax set to sunset in 2029, local leaders warned they had nearly run out of bonding authority to fund future infrastructure projects. A 22-year extension, they said, would help the district replace one or more aging elementary schools and modernize the three high schools, which were all built nearly 50 years ago.
The Legislature passed that extension a few weeks ago, and Gov. Kim Reynolds recognized how important the measure was to Sioux City school officials, so she came here to sign the SAVE Act, short for Secure an Advanced Vision for Education.
“You have been working on this a long time,” Reynolds said, turning around from the table where she signed the law in front of a group of people, then finding and pointing a finger at district Superintendent Paul Gausman. “It is just such an honor to have the governor sign the extension here at our Career Academy,” replied Gausman, referring to the district’s downtown classrooms where students from all three high schools take specialty courses.
Reynolds signed House File 546, surrounded by students, administrators and lawmakers. The bill had been floor-managed in the House by Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City, and in the Senate by Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, who also were on hand.
It took Reynolds about three minutes to write her signature, since she used more than two dozen pens, with each one for a small segment of her name. The governor joked the herky-jerky process made it look like her name had been written by her granddaughter, who is 3.
Reynolds noted the measure not only addresses school infrastructure needs, but also will significantly reduce property taxes, with roughly $5 billion over the next 30 years going toward property tax relief. She said the sales tax is estimated to generate $26.2 billion through 2051, with $21 billion for infrastructure funding.
With the sales tax revenue stream guaranteed to continue, Gausman said the school board will look into funding more projects in the coming years, including plans to modernize the three high schools, which all opened in 1972.
Gausman said many Sioux City residents still refer to East, West and North high schools as the “new” schools, but, “They are not new high schools at all.”