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Keokuk School Tax Vote Underway

Jason Parrott
The demolition of the former Jefferson School in Keokuk would be a top priority for the school district if voters approve an increase of the PPEL rate on Feb. 5.

Early voting has started for the February 5 special election in the Keokuk School District. Residents are being asked to support a plan that the district said will increase the amount of money available for infrastructure improvements without hiking property taxes.

Superintendent Christine Barnes said the district’s current Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) is about $0.33/$1,000 of assessed property value. She said that generates about $135,000 annually.

That money can be spent on building improvements, technology, security, and transportation.

Barnes said the $0.33 rate is the maximum allowed with voter approval. But she said that’s not keeping up with the growing list of projects around the district, prompting the special election.

The district would like to increase the rate by $1.34/$1,000. That’s expected to bring in an additional $540,000 in PPEL funding each year.

Barnes said the reason for doing so now is because the district will pay off the construction bonds for the middle school in June. She said the amount of the property tax rate for the bond payments: $1.34/$1,000.

“This is just a way to do it that isn’t going to be painful,” said Barnes. “We have already been paying the building off and it allows us to really continue to keep things in good repair.”

The list of potential projects includes

  • Demolition of former Jefferson School
  • Roof Replacements (Hawthorne Elementary, Keokuk Middle School, Keokuk High School Welding Shop)
  • Plumbing Work (KHS)
  • HVAC Replacement (Hawthorne)
  • Brick Repair (Torrence Preschool)
  • Press Box (Calvert Stadium)

Barnes said using the PPEL money for projects like these means the district can focus its general fund on classroom education. She said the district is working with an engineering firm to determine the priority list for the projects.
Barnes said ballot issue requires a simple majority to pass. She said the increased tax rate would be in place for ten years. Voters would have an opportunity to extend it another ten years in the future.

The district will hold three informational meetings on the PPEL increase. They will take place at Torrence Preschool.

  • Thurs., Jan. 17 – 6:00 p.m.
  • Thurs., Jan. 24 – 9:00 a.m.
  • Wed., Jan. 30 – 6:00 p.m.
Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.