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home : news : news Sunday, May 1, 2016

3/30/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Special election for Central, Northeast schools to be held April 2

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

Voters in two area school districts will have a chance to weigh in on tax and facility addition proposals at a special election to be held Tuesday, April 2.

Voters in the Central Community School District are being asked to renew for 10 years a 67-cent per $1,000 valuation physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) that generates around $400,000 annually for facility-related costs.

Voters in the Northeast Community School District also are being asked to authorize a 67-cent PPEL, which would be a new tax for the district, for a 10-year period.

Both the Central and Northeast districts already have a 33-cent board-approved PPEL.

In addition to the PPEL vote, Northeast voters will be asked to approve a $7.5 million bond issue to fund a 40,000-square foot addition to the high school that includes a 1,500-2,000-seat competition gym and four new science classrooms, as well as improvements to outdoor athletic facilities.

Polls will be open for voters in both districts 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

The polling place for the Central Community School District will be at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 520 E. 11th St., DeWitt.

The polling place for the Northeast Community School District will be Goose Lake City Hall, 1 School Ln.

Central PPEL vote

According to Central school administrators, the district has had some form of voter-authorized PPEL since 1964, although the levy rates have varied. The district has had a board-approved 33-cent PPEL and voter-authorized 67-cent PPEL since 1993.

The levy generated $442,275 for the 2012/13 school year based on a taxable valuation of approximately $442 million dollars.

Central superintendent Dan Peterson has stated the levy is needed to pay for facility improvements that include roof replacements, air conditioning of classrooms, boiler repairs and improvements to life-safety systems, such as intercoms, video surveillance and alarm systems.

Northeast PPEL vote

Northeast has had a board-approved PPEL of 33 cents in place since it has been allowed by law, according to Northeast superintendent Jim Cox.

Cox said the levy has been in place for at least 20 years, but he was unsure of the exact year it was implemented. The district has not previously asked for voter approval to levy at the higher rate.

If approved, the PPEL would generate $175,330 for the district based on a taxable valuation of approximately $175 million.

Cox has stated the PPEL is needed to pay for increased maintenance costs associated with the gym and science classroom addition.

Limited purposes

PPEL funds can be used only for limited purposes outlined in the Iowa Code.

Authorized uses include the purchase or improvement of property, construction of buildings or access roads to buildings, purchase or lease of technology, payment of debts related to construction of facilities, facility remodeling, transportation equipment, acquisition of library facilities, energy conservation expenses, facility rental expenses and demolition and clean-up costs.

The ballot in the Central school district will use a shortened version of the PPEL ballot question that asks voters to approve the levy for all purposes permitted by Iowa law.

The question is listed as "Proposition A."

The ballot in the Northeast school district, where it is a new levy, uses the longer form of the question that lists all the legal uses for PPEL revenues.

The question is listed as "Proposition B."

To determine the impact of the 67-cent voter-approved PPEL, property owners can divide the taxable value of their property by $1,000 and multiply the result by .67.

A home with an assessed valuation of $100,000 would have a taxable valuation of $52,817, and the PPEL would result in $35.39 per year in property taxes.

Under Iowa law, school districts can ask voters for authority to levy up to $1.34 per $1,000 valuation for facility and equipment needs.

Northeast bond referendum

Northeast district residents will have an additional ballot question to vote on, "Proposition C."

The question will ask for authorization for the district to take on up to $7.5 million in debt by issuing general obligation bonds to build, furnish and equip an addition to the existing middle/high school building and to build, improve, remodel, repair and furnish athletic facilities.

The bonds would be paid off over a 20-year period using revenue from the district's debt service levy.

The district is proposing a debt-service levy of $2.67 per $1,000 valuation for the 2013/14 school year. Financial advisor Matt Gillaspie of Piper Jaffray has estimated the debt-service levy will need to increase to $2.84 for the 2014/15 school year but will fall to $2.80 the following year and continue to decrease in subsequent years to $2.12 when the bonds are paid off in 2033.

The decrease in the debt service levy assumes property values will rise at a rate of 1.5 percent per year. If property values remain unchanged, the rate would stay around $2.80 through the life of the bonds.

With the district scheduled to pay off its debt on the 1995 elementary school bonds within the next two years, historically-low interest rates will allow Northeast to complete the facility addition project while still lowering the overall property tax rate.

The proposed rate of approximately $14.80 for the 2013/14 school year is a decrease of 13 cents over the current year.

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