Groups Spread Messages of Support, Opposition for Tuesday's Johnston Bond Election

There are several groups promoting their ideas for the upcoming Johnston school district bond election. If the $51 million referendum is approved, it would help build a new high school and renovate other buildings.

Supporters and opponents of the Johnston school dstrict bond issue are busy spreading their messages in the final day before election.

Several groups for and against the $51 million bond issue have campaigned for support through social media, yard signs and emails.

Residents will be asked Tuesday if they approve a $51 million bond issue that would be used to help build a new high school and renovate other buildings.

The proposed high school is just one aspect of a larger $122.3 million project that includes repurposing the current high school, middle school and Wallace Elementary. The majority of the project cost will be paid for through PPEL and sales tax revenue.

Citizens for Quality Johnston Schools was established in August to generate yes votes for the measure.

"We believe this is the direction that our community needs to go," said Jacqueline Kiple, group organizer. "We want to make sure the community has as much information as possible."

Although the group is promoting a yes vote, members want to promote the information related to the bond issue for voters to make their own decisions.

"Most of what we've pushed out to the community is to get the facts for yourself, we've run into a lot of miscommunication in the community," Kiple said.

According to documents filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, the group has spent more than $1,600 on campaign signs, door hangers and postcards.

Kiple estimated the group has given out more than 600 yard signs, which now dot Johnston yards.

The group has received contributions from FRK Architects & Engineers and Perkins & Will, the companies hired to design the proposed new high school, to the tune of $500 each. Joseph Kiple provided a $1,000 contribution.

The group also manages a Facebook page, where they spread information about the bond election. As of Monday, the page had 76 "likes."

"We use the Facebook page to get out as much information about the activities that have happened," Kiple said.

The page has several galleries from committee meetings outlining the process used to get to the current plan for facilities.

On the other side of the fence, Johnston Citizens Acting for Responsible Education formed in late August to oppose the bond issue.

According to campaign finance filings, the group, headed by Barb Heki and Jamie Smith, has received $1,560 in in-kind contributions from Jeanne Jennings for consulting services, fees and mailing costs.

A call to organizers was not returned.

Tim Gardner, of Johnston, also established a Facebook page, Johnston Bond Issue VOTE No! just last week. The page currently has 11 members.

While Gardner does not have represent any specific group of people, he felt the need to get his perception of the issue out for other community members.

Gardner circulated an email over the weekend outlining his reasons for voting no in Tuesday's election.

"I'm just asking people to think and look at the big picture," he said. "We have to grow and expand, I just don't think the high school idea out west is a good one."

Gardner said a no vote doesn't mean he is against the school district.

"Everyone is entitled their opinion this is just mine," he said. "Voting no doesn't mean that we don't want to expand or are against the school district or growth."

Gardner cited the cost and location, which he feels will create a divide in the city, as points of contention for him.

The bond must have a 60-percent favorable vote or it fails. If that happens, the Johnston school board will have to determine next steps, which could include another bond election in April 2013. If the bond fails, the district would have to continue to use modular classrooms at Johnston Middle School, Beaver Creek and Horizon elementary schools.

See more stories on the $51 million bond issue and proposed new high school:

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