By The Gazette Editorial Board
On Tuesday, voters in the Cedar Rapids School District will be asked to increase a Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, or PPEL, for facilities maintenance, safety and energy conservation projects, along with transportation needs. The Iowa City school district is asking voters to renew its PPEL, while voters in Benton, Linn, Jones, Iowa, Johnson, Cedar, Washington and Keokuk counties are being asked to renew an instructional equipment levy for Kirkwood Community College.
We support all three tax measures.
CEDAR RAPIDS PPEL
The Cedar Rapids district has been collecting a PPEL for decades, and is seeking to raise its current 67-cent per-$1,000 of taxable property value to $1.34, collecting $6.92 million annually for the next 10 years. It’s a hefty increase, but pales in comparison to the district’s recently compiled $200 million list of basic maintenance needs, which includes new doors and roofs, replacement windows, lighting upgrades, parking lot repairs and a long list of projects, many deferred because of a lack of resources.
It’s also used to replace aging transportation equipment such as school buses.
We’ve taken issue in the past with multiple facilities decisions made by the school board. We’ve argued that the district needs to greatly improve its ability to communicate with the public and make a much stronger commitment to transparency. Results have been mixed, but some progress has been made.
We also believe that students and staff deserve safe, functional and well-maintained facilities. This PPEL increase would help make that happen in a district with many aging neighborhood schools.
Although we understand that it’s tempting for voters to use this vote to send a message of protest to the board on its handling of past issues, we think this tax levy for basic repairs and upkeep is the wrong target.
IOWA CITY LEVY
In Iowa City, school district leaders are seeking to renew a $1.34 PPEL for the next 10 years, so the ballot measure would not increase the tax rate.
We think it makes sense for a swiftly growing district such as Iowa City’s to seek maximum maintenance funding allowed by the state under PPEL. We agree with Superintendent Stephen Murley, who argues that keeping up with maintenance saves money in the long run by reducing the need for major projects.
In 2004, the current PPEL passed with 79 percent of the vote. A renewal is in order.
The Kirkwood Community College District is seeking to renew a 6-cent per-$1,000 instructional equipment levy. In the past, the levy has been used to purchase a wide array of educational equipment, from computers and dental X-ray equipment to potters’ wheels and mixers for the renowned culinary program — vital to the college’s mission to provide relevant training and education in a fast-changing world.
The levy raises $1.2 million annually and has been in place for 30 years. We urge voters in the district to renew it.
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