Lonnie Luepker

LONNIE LUEPKER

Observer Columnist

Summer is finally here, and that means projects are beginning at both of our buildings in Calamus and Wheatland. 

At the elementary in Calamus, two new roofs will be put on the 1998 additions and the main halls will be painted in school colors. The secondary building in Wheatland will also have the last hallways and rooms painted in school colors as part of a two-year process.  

The high school gym will have new LED lights installed.  The greenhouse that was purchased through a Monsanto grant will be erected. 

The majority of these projects will be paid for out of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL), pronounced “pepple” in school terms. PPEL is a major source of revenue for public schools; at Calamus-Wheatland voters approved a levy of  $.67/$1,000 on property valuation of home and commercial property owners. This levy has been in place at Calamus-Wheatland for over thirty years.

PPEL is considered categorical funding and can only be used for specific purposes as it relates to building and grounds upkeep and repairs, new construction, technology (our one-to-one laptop program), 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 up to ten years and 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 the PPEL funds, many things that keep the district running would need to be paid for out of 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. Over the past thirty-plus years, a number of facility projects, paid for through PPEL funds, have drastically improved the experiences that students have at our schools. Here are some of those projects:

• 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 seventh-grades-through-senior 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

• Lighting

• Copier leases

• Managed Broadband

• Furniture

I share this with you now because PPEL will pay for the majority of the district’s projects this summer, and the current PPEL funding expires in 2021. The district intends to have the PPEL levy question on the ballot this fall. I want to re-enforce that this is not a new tax, but just renewal of the current levy and the district’s students greatly benefit from this funding source.  

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at (563) 374-1292.

Lonnie Luepker is the Calamus-Wheatland School District superintendent.