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Keokuk Superintendent Grateful to Voters for Approving Tax Increase

Jason Parrott
The approval of the PPEL increase will allow the district to demolish the former Jefferson School.

Turnout could be described as minimal for the Keokuk School District's special election this week. But the impact could be massive as there will now be more money available for infrastructure, transportation, and technology needs.

Voters authorized the district to increase its Physical Plant and Equipment Levy for the next ten years. The final tally of 195-111 represented less than 4% of the eligible voters.

Superintendent Christine Barnes said the current PPEL is not keeping up with the needs of the district. So she is grateful to those who voted for the increase.

“We were just very excited and just very happy that people supported in this,” said Barnes. “I am just grateful to the voters in the community that they are willing to support the schools and maintaining our facilities and preparing for growth of our district and the future needs of our students. I am just really, really happy about that.”

Barnes said the current PPEL rate ($0.33/$1,000 assessed valuation) was the maximum allowed without voter approval. She said it generates about $135,000 annually.

Keokuk will now be able to increase the rate to $1.67/$1,000 for the next ten years, which will increase the amount generated each year to nearly $675,000.

Barnes said the district is creating a priority list of projects. She said at the top project will likely be the demolition of the former Jefferson School and the replacement of the roofs and HVAC units at several buildings.

“We are going to start going through the planning stages,” said Barnes. “By the time we do that, get bids and those types of things, I think the timing [of the additional money coming in] would fall together really well.”

The result of the vote is that the owner of a $100,000 home within the school district will pay nearly $95/year for PPEL, as opposed to $19/year currently.

But Barnes said that increase will be negated because the district will pay off the construction bonds for the middle school this summer. So she said the larger PPEL rate will simply replace the construction bond rate.

“I think that really made it a little bit easier to understand the needs and then to understand that it allows us to really take care of what we do have without impacting the bottom line for people’s tax bill,” said Barnes.

“Nobody likes to pay any more taxes than they have to, so we thought this would be a time that would make sense for voters.”

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