Pushing for the penny: Schools looking ahead to 2029

CLINTON — The year 2029 may seem like a long way away, but for local and state school officials, it's a little too close for comfort.

That's because that's when current legislation that gives school districts a much-needed share of the state's sales tax funds is set to expire. The "Secure an Advanced Vision for Education"Fund is fed by the statewide one-cent sales tax, and is then distributed to state schools to aid crucial infrastructural needs.

For Clinton school officials, the "penny sales tax" as it is known will become vital when it comes to making improvements at some of the district's aging structures.

"At Clinton High School, a lot of those areas and wings are more than 70 years old," Clinton School District Superintendent Gary DeLacy said Wednesday. "Extending this sales tax past 2029 is absolutely still our number-one priority because we have so many facility needs that will be benefited by the penny sales tax."

Now, more than ever, the push is on statewide to extend the legislation past 2029. Districts from Clinton in the east to Council Bluffs in the west have voiced their concerns as, even though it's still 11 years away, the expiration date nears.

"Iowa public schools are using SAVE funds in a variety of ways that make a difference from safety, to technology, to community vitality and enhanced education," the Iowa Association of School Boards says. "Iowa school boards must tell their district's story so that the governor and legislators understand how this investment has made a difference for Iowa students."

DeLacy says the fund has been a lifesaver as of late, as the district "has little no room for more bonding capacity."

Improvement projects at seemingly every district building, from the various elementary schools to CHS, have been funded by the SAVE fund.

The Clinton superintendent feels that he has the support of local legislators in the fight to extend the penny sales tax. To ensure that support, he has shown the lawmakers firsthand accounts of what can be improved by the fund.

"Our three area legislators, I showed them the behind the scenes of Clinton High School," DeLacy said. "I took them to the 'problem areas' and showed them that a lot of the building really is beyond its life cycle. Those kinds of things are what can really be improved by the penny sales tax. That's why it's so important to us."