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Tax Hike on Ballot for West Burlington Schools

West Burlington voters will decide on Tuesday, April 7 whether to give the local school district more money for technology. Superintendent Dave Schmitt said the money generated by a proposed tax increase is crucial to the district.
This is the final year for one of the district's PPEL's, or Physical Plant and Equipment Levy. It was approved by voters nearly ten years ago. The levy generates about $102,000 annually, which the district uses for technology and infrastructure improvements.

Schmitt said the district wants to extend the PPEL another ten years, creating the need for Tuesday's special election.

"In my professional and personal opinion, we need the PPEL," Schmitt said. "We need that to keep our facilities in tip-top shape and we need the voted PPEL for technology."

Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR

The school district also wants the property tax rate associated with the levy to double from $0.67/$1,000 of assessed valuation to $1.34/$1,000.

Schmitt said the additional money generated would go to pay for the district's 1-1 tablet initiative.

"We've borrowed the money up front to buy all of our computers," said Schmitt. "We have a one-year payment of $175,000 left for the first round of computers. We will use $100,000 of the PPEL, if approved, and $75,000 of general fund money. General fund moneys are used for instruction and our computers are instructional."

Schmitt said if voters do not extend the PPEL and double the rate, the entire cost of the initiative would come from the general fund. He said there is money in reserves to cover it next year, but he said that will gradually drain the district's fund balances.

Voters rejected a similar measure last year.  Schmitt believes a factor was that the PPEL extension and increase was on the same ballot as a multimillion dollar bond issue.

"I think the voters probably discriminated between those two, seeing that the bond issue maybe was something extra, not necessary, although I think we have gotten to the point that it is and saw the PPEL as something that was kind of was tied in with the bond issue. I hope by separating them and not running a bond issue this time that the voters will see it more clearly," Schmitt said.

Schmitt said there is good news for taxpayers concerned about doubling the rate. He said the budget that will soon be approved by the district reduces the overall tax rate by nearly the same amount ($1.24/$1,000) as the new PPEL rate would be ($1.34/$1,000).

The polls will be open in West Burlington from 12:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 7.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.