Cedar Rapids school board to restart PPEL conversation Monday

Board members to discuss levy rate, when to go to voters

Published: January 9 2014 | 5:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:52 am in

Cedar Rapids Community School District taxpayers have not heard the last regarding the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL), which funds facilities and transportation upgrades.

Four months after 57.49 percent of voters declined to double the 67 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation rate to $1.34 per $1,000 for a 10-year period beginning on July 1, 2015 – one day after the district’s current levy is set to expire – administrators are set to showcase possible scenarios for the levy’s  future.

The presentation, scheduled for the board’s 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13 regular meeting, includes examples of operations and maintenance projects from the district’s facilities master plan for Cleveland Elementary, McKinley Middle and Kennedy High schools that could be performed over a 10-year timeline depending on whether voters renew the levy at its current rate, the $1.34 per $1,000 maximum or a newly introduced mid-point rate of 98 cents per $1,000.

“We just picked the mid-point just for the purposes of giving the board something to mull over and consider,” said Steve Graham, executive director of business services for the district. “Everything’s on the table. We’re really back at square one. … There could be all kinds of scenarios beyond this. This is just a conversation starter to re-engage the conversation publicly.”

Graham also said that current-, mid-point and maximum-rate facilities plans – with different projects listed depending on funding – for all district buildings will be available at Monday’s meeting.

Board documents show that the renewing the levy at the current rate will generate $3.46 million, the mid-point rate will provide $5.03 million while the state maximum will give the district $6.94 million annually.

In addition to determining at what rate to set the levy, Graham said that board members will have to decide if the levy should be fully funded through property taxes or include dollars from an income surtax and whether to set the levy’s life for the maximum 10-year duration.

Another issue facing board members is when to return to voters. Directors opted against filing paperwork with the Linn County Auditor by Dec. 20, 2013 to take advantage of a Tuesday, Feb. 4 special election, the board’s first opportunity to bring the levy to voters following the September defeat.

Three special election dates remain in 2014: Tuesday, April 1, Tuesday, Sept. 9 and Tuesday, Dec. 2. The filing deadlines for those dates are Friday, Feb. 14, Friday, July 25 and Friday, Oct. 17.

“We’ve got to start somewhere and now’s the place to start having that public conversation and we’ll see where that goes,” Graham said.

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