Voters to decide Cedar Rapids schools PPEL in September

Board approves asking residents for maximum rate

CEDAR RAPIDS — In three months, voters will get a second chance to decide how much money they want to give the Cedar Rapids Community School District to upgrade its facilities and vehicles.

During a regular meeting Monday night, board members approved going to voters in a Sept. 9 special election to boost the district’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy to the maximum rate allowed by law, $1.34 per $1,000 taxable valuation, for 10 years beginning July 1, 2015.

“It’s something we should’ve done prior to where we are today,” board member Keith Westercamp said. “This will not totally solve our problems but if we don’t do it, the problem will become gigantic. That’s the choice we have to make.”

The levy increase would provide $6.92 million annually — twice the $3.46 million generated each year by the 67 cents per $1,000 voter-approved levy rate that will expire June 30, 2015 — for administrators to spend on projects outlined in the district’s Facilities Master Plan. Superintendent Dave Benson, answering a question from board member Ann Rosenthal, confirmed the district could absorb the levy increase without raising the overall tax rate in its first year.

Voters rejected the same increase in September, though that resolution included language about potentially using an income surtax to reach that $1.34 per $1,000 rate.

After the vote, Benson mentioned one new element that could help the district avoid repeating history.

“There is a citizens committee who will be working on a campaign to inform the community and advocate for passage of the resolution,” he said, though membership information will not be available until next week.

Board members Monday also approved allowing administrators to measure the 2014-15 school year in 1,080 hours as opposed to 180 days. And they voted to sell $9 million in sales tax revenue bonds to Regions Bank with a 1.48 percent interest rate. Those dollars are set to finance facilities upgrades at Washington and Jefferson high schools.

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