Lonnie Luepker


Observer Columnist

The Calamus-Wheatland Board of Directors voted unanimously at our September board meeting to place the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) question on the general election ballot in November. 

Pronounced “pepple” in school terms, PPEL is a major source of revenue for public schools. In 2009 Calamus-Wheatland voters approved a $.67/$1,000 levy on property valuations of both home and commercial properties. This levy has been in place since the two schools merged together 30 years ago. The levy rate could be as much as $1.34/$1,000, but the district is not asking for this rate as the $.67 rate is adequate for the current needs. The board again will be asking for voters to approve a $.67/$1000 levy. I want to clarify that this is asking for the levy to be extended, this is not an increase.

PPEL is considered categorical funding and can only be used for specific purposes. It relates to building and grounds upkeep and repairs, new construction, technology, and equipment such as boilers, vehicles, maintenance and furniture. The money cannot be used to pay teacher salaries, fund student programs or pay for utilities. According to Iowa Code and the Iowa Department of Education, a district’s voters may authorize a voted Physical Plant and Equipment Levy for a period of up to 10 years in an amount not exceeding $1.34 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. The Calamus-Wheatland district has been steady in proposing — and voters approving — a levy in the amount of $.67 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. 

Without PPEL funds, many things that keep the district running would need to be paid for using the district’s general fund, which also covers employees’ salaries and benefits and programming for students. Those are instructional items and functions that are essential to student achievement. Without PPEL the district would need to make choices about staffing and programming versus taking care of the physical plant and equipment.

Previous Calamus-Wheatland purchases and remodels in the past 10 years have included but are not limited to. 

• One-to-One laptop initiative:

The one-to-one laptop initiative, first adopted in 2011, has allowed Calamus-Wheatland to put a computer in every student’s hands, eliminating the digital divide. The district’s 7-12 grade students have access to MacBook Airs, and our elementary students have access to Chromebooks and iPads. Technology is a vital and necessary tool in today’s instruction and allows for students to enrich their academic experience and explore additional academic interests during non-school hours. 

• School buses and vehicles

• Playground equipment

• Building remodels

• Roof replacement

• Lighting upgrades

• Copier leases

• Managed Broadband

• Furniture

• Equipment for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) classes

• Equipment for building/grounds maintenance

• Construction of greenhouse

This will be the last article in The Observer before the Nov. 5, 2019 general election. I am encouraging all Calamus-Wheatland voters to approve the extension of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy question as it appears on your ballot. I encourage you to contact me or any of your elected board members with any questions that you might have regarding the levy extension request. I may be reached at (563) 374-1292 or lluepker@cal-wheat.net. #gowarriors

Lonnie Luepker is the Calamus-Wheatland Community School District’s superintendent. He also operates as the superintendent for the Bennett School District.