A special election on Feb. 5 will allow voters to renew the current 67-cent Physical Plant and Equipment Levy and also increase it by an additional 67 cents.
If the levy isn't renewed for another 10 years, the consequences for the Fort Dodge Community School District could be dire, said district officials.
According to Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, not renewing the 67-cent levy will take away from the school two-thirds of its buildings funds. The district gets $898,863 now with the current levy in place.
"The school board has the ability to levy 33 cents, which they can do without the vote of the people. Anything above that has to be done with a vote," Van Zyl said. "We currently have one dollar."
Though a request to renew and increase the levy failed when brought to voters in December, Van Zyl hopes the community will support the measure this second time.
"I'm hopeful people have a better understanding," he said. "I know the board is working very hard to get the message and the word out. The board is realistic in knowing people struggle with taxes and paying them, because nobody really likes taxes. I hope people understand we, as a taxing authority, have been careful with what we've done with our taxes."
The new middle school construction is not paid for with any PPEL funds, Van Zyl said.
"We've never had a $30 million surplus," Van Zyl said. "People are referring to the one-cent sales tax. Those are not PPEL dollars. Those dollars are borrowed against the sales tax for 20 years to pay for the new middle school. That's a different funding mechanism. In building that middle school, that cost our taxpayers nothing."
Without the voter-approved PPEL funds, the district will have even greater difficulty with the upkeep of its buildings.
"If we don't have the renewal and increase of the PPEL we continue to fall further behind in maintenance of our facilities and upgrading them," Van Zyl said. "I think it's important people understand it's for school buses, for technology. It can also be dollars for building security and safety issues, let alone general maintenance, from roof repair to concrete work. All those things play into and make our schools the best learning environment possible."
He added, "Annually it costs $3 million as we look at our (building) needs and PPEL is only taking care of $900,000. That's why we've had to prioritize projects."
With the loss of those funds, money for buildings will have to come from elsewhere in the district budget.
"If this doesn't pass, the board will have to determine where we get the dollars to continue to maintain our facilities," Van Zyl said. "Those dollars will have to come out of the general fund, which ties directly into instructional programs and staffing. Some decisions will have to be made in that regard as well."
The district, with the upcoming special election, is not only asking for a renewal of the current 67-cent levy for another 10-year term, but an increase of another 67 cents as well.
"This will give the district the maximum $1.67 levy. It can't be increased from that," Van Zyl said. "We're asking for additional monies to maintain our facilities. If they don't pass this issue, all the board can put in place is a 33-cent levy. We can't ask either/or on the ballot."
He added, "By increasing, like we're asking, we're still not going to be able to meet the demands, but it will take us closer."
A special election will be held Feb. 5 on renewing and increasing the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy. Ballots are available at the Webster County Auditor's Office.