PPEL levy helps school district facilities

KIm Brooks
Express Editor

     Tuesday, Feb. 7 is the day those residing within the Monticello Community School District are asked to go out and vote to support the renewal of the PPEL (Physical Plant & Equipment Levy) tax levy. This levy is used by the MCSD to maintain and repair the district’s facilities.

     Specific uses of the tax levy include: Building repairs, land improvements, vehicles, school buses, furniture/fixtures, heating/cooling/plumbing, technology, resurfacing the track, infrastructure upgrades, instruments, parking lot repairs, and so much more.

     The current PPEL tax levy has been in place for 10 years, with it set to expire on June 30, 2018. Monticello Schools Superintendent Brian Jaeger said the district is asking voters to renew it at the same rate (67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value) for another 10 years.

     “This length of time helps with long-range planning of projects we need to complete,” he explained.

     There are two parts to PPEL. One is the school board approved 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

     “This is the maximum amount allowed by law,” said Jaeger.

     This 33 cents comes out to $120,000 a year, and is built into the district’s budget every year.

     “Because we need more for normal operating costs, we ask for a voter approved PPEL, which is why we are having the election,” explained Jaeger.

     The voter-approved PPEL is set at 67 cents in Monticello, or $240,000 a year. PPEL could be as high as $1.34.

     So how did the MCSD come to the conclusion to set it at 67 cents?

     “We looked at the amount we have been spending from the PPEL account for the last several years, and we started the development of a five-year facility projects plan,” said Jaeger. “The plan (which has yet to be approved) showed that if we budget money over five years, we can make the total of $360,000 annually work in our district.” (The total from both PPELs.)

     In Fiscal Year 2015, the district spent almost $9,000 on non-instructional software, over $222,000 on building repair/upkeep, almost $5,000 on land improvements, and almost $50,000 on technology. In FY ’16, over $82,000 on building repair/upkeep, $29,450 on land improvements, $174,000 on vehicles/buses, and over $78,000 on technology.

     Tentative PPEL plans for this year include: the purchase of a school bus, accounting  software, rent space for the Transition Program, resurface the track, relocating the long-jump area at the track, Buddy Benches, elevator repairs, security lighting, and so much more.

     In the State of Iowa, 78 percent of school districts have a PPEL vote in place. It serves as one of the primary sources of funding for our schools.

     PPEL funds cannot be spent on salaries, travel, supplies, printing services, or any purpose not expressed by the Iowa Code.

     Renewing the tax levy does not mean one’s property taxes will increase.

     While there is over a year before PPEL expires in Monticello, Jaeger said there are several reasons why it should be renewed now. One, the district needs funding to support its five-year project plan. PPEL also needs to be in place before any discussing can even begin on another facilities bond.

     “The sooner we pass the PPEL, the sooner we can start discussing the facility needs and a facility bond,” said Jaeger. He offered that the latest architectural/engineering costs could rise 6-8 percent.

     Should the Feb. 7 PPEL vote not pass, Jaeger said the district has time to gather the necessary feedback from the community and try for another vote before it expires.

     “I would like the community to consider the facts shared about the upcoming PPEL election,” urged Jaeger.

     A community forum on this very topic will be held on Monday, Jan. 30, at 5 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

     Voters should go to the Monticello Berndes Center on Feb. 7, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to vote.


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