What exactly are voters being asked to vote on?
The following language is what was on the November 5, 2019 ballot:
Shall the Board of Directors of the Des Moines Independent Community School District, in the counties of Polk and Warren, State of Iowa, for the purpose of purchasing and improving grounds; constructing schoolhouses or buildings and opening roads to schoolhouses or buildings; purchasing of buildings; purchase, lease or lease-purchase of technology and equipment; paying debts contracted for the erection or construction of schoolhouses or buildings, not including interest on bonds; procuring or acquisition of libraries; repairing, remodeling, reconstructing, improving, or expanding the schoolhouses or buildings and additions to existing schoolhouses; expenditures for energy conservation; renting facilities under Chapter 28E, Code of Iowa; purchasing transportation equipment for transporting students; lease purchase option agreements for school buildings or equipment; purchasing equipment authorized by law; or for any purpose or purposes now or hereafter authorized by law, be authorized for a period of ten (10) years, to levy annually, a voter-approved physical plant and equipment property tax not to exceed One Dollar Thirty-Four Cents ($1.34) per One Thousand Dollars ($1,000) of the assessed valuation of the taxable property within the school district commencing with the levy for collection in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, or each year thereafter.
Who supports this proposal?
The proposal to extend and increase the PPEL has been endorsed by the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa, the Des Moines Education Association, and the Des Moines Register.
The statewide sales tax for school infrastructure was just extended. Why isn’t that enough to meet your needs?
There were over $300 million in needs recently identified over the next five years for capital projects at Des Moines Public Schools.The school district receives about $31 million per year from the Statewide sales tax, over a five year period that would equate to $155 million of revenue, which is still $145 million short of the needs identified. The physical plan and equipment levy (PPEL) will enable us to create a long term (10 year) dedicated funding source for student technology in Des Moines as well as meeting the critical repair and maintenance needs at our 71 buildings.
The school district announced plans for a new school, which were dropped. It purchased a new administrative office, which is now for sale. How can people in Des Moines trust the school district when it comes to building decisions?
In the mode of reducing operational costs, it was not feasible to add additional space when we are forced to reduce. In addition to the cost of building a new school there is also the cost to staff and operate it, which were not realistic at a time of budget cuts. The school district’s office building being sold is expected to generate a profit which will then be utilized to continue to support programming of DMPS, while at the same time turning a building no longer being used as a school into office and program space.
What would prevent the school district from raising the cash reserve and management levies in a year or two, turning this into a tax increase?
It is not our plan to do so. Our budget issue revolves around spending authority and not property taxes. Raising those property taxes would not help solve our budget issues.
Why didn’t DMPS increase the PPEL levy last time it was on the ballot?
We were not in the budget crisis mode we have been forced into now. Ten years ago we were just focused on basic maintenance needs, and technology was not the priority it is today.
How can the cash reserve and management levies be reduced? Won’t those create shortfalls that are only going to have to be made up for later?
We will still be able to keep our cash reserve ratios at the Board targets of 15% with this reduction. Reducing the management levy could increase the chance of reducing some expenditures in that fund, such as retirement incentives, but would not jeopardize the fund in the short or long term overall.
Have voters in Des Moines ever voted on the PPEL before?
The PPEL needs to be approved for extension by voters every tens years, whether there are changes or not in the levy amount. The last time the PPEL was voted on in Des Moines was 2010, when its extension was approved with 65% of the vote.
What happens if the community doesn’t approve the PPEL extension?
In the event that the community would vote no for the PPEL extension, revenue would not stay the same, it would actually be reduced. The school board would approve a levy of $0.33 cents (the max amount they can approve), effectively cutting the PPEL by half, resulting in the loss of approximately $5.2 million. The effect on current and future budgets and would directly, negatively impact the services we can provide our students and our facilities.