Bond Referendum – Waukee Community School District
2023 bond referendum
According to unofficial results, Dallas County voters approved both issues on the Nov. 7 ballot for Waukee CSD:
- A $180 million general obligation (GO) bond to fund critical school projects, improvements and infrastructure needs
- An extension of PPEL funds available to the District
The approval of these measures will mean No impact the District’s share of residents’ property tax rates.
General Obligation Bond (GO Bond)
- Significant improvements to Waukee High School auditorium and fine arts space
- Funds to build elementary school #12 in the district
- New auditorium at South Middle School
- Northern Operations and Transportation Center
- New parking lots and roof replacements on multi-district buildings
- Track and Turf Replacement at Northwest High School, Waukee High School and Timberline School
- Tennis court replacement at Waukee High School
- Energy efficiency efforts at Waukee Natatorium and Learning and Innovation Center
- Security/Protection Updates
- Improved technology
- Expansion of the District Office
- Finance to purchase land for future sites.
For more details, please refer to the September 6 City Hall Slide Deck.
Tax on physical plants and equipment (PPEL)
This will expand the Plant and Equipment Tax (PPEL) funds available to our District, which will:
- Support the improvement of land, equipment, repairs, remodeling and transportation equipment.
- Ensure that our students receive the highest quality education in modern, well-maintained school facilities.
The current PPEL will expire in 2026. Secure these funding streams now enables growth over the next decade and investment in the future of our community.
Why are these projects necessary?
Our school buildings deteriorate over time due to normal wear and tear. We know that updated, well-maintained facilities can enhance the learning environment, improve safety, and provide our students and staff with modern amenities.
Our two main sources of financing-he Physical Plant and Equipment Tax (PPEL) and State Cent Sales Tax (SAVE)—They do not generate enough revenue to cover the annual maintenance costs of our facilities, as well as meet the technology needs of students and classrooms (including our 1:1 initiative), and buses and other vehicles. Therefore, a separate funding source, such as a bond referendum, is needed for capital projects and major infrastructure upgrades.
We have a proud history at Waukee CSD of maintaining our facilities and not postponing maintenance whenever possible. Without a referendum, we would need to transition to a model that includes deferred maintenance. This presents long-term challenges, such as changes in materials and constant inflation, along with an overall decline in the quality of experiences for those using the facilities. In this model, the cost of returning our facilities to their original quality would become increasingly higher over time.
How do the property taxes I pay intersect with school infrastructure projects?
The majority of school property taxes paid go to the general fund. The general fund pays the daily operating costs of our District, and personnel costs comprise the majority of the budget. Because schools are funded by student enrollment and that count lags by one year, we educate approximately 500 students annually with no additional revenue from the state. As such, we have one of the lowest per-student expenditures in Iowa.
A portion of property taxes goes toward voter-approved PPEL. These funds are used for school infrastructure and are described in other questions in this FAQ.
Another part of the property tax is the payment of general obligation bonds. The maximum amount that can be generated, by law, is $4.05/$1,000 of assessed valuation. That is our current tax rate and it is the reason why the tax rate will not increase if the referendum passes.
How much do we receive annually from PPEL and SAVE?
Our annual SAVE revenue is approximately $16 million; PPEL costs approximately $11 million, for a total of approximately $27 million in annual funding. About $17 million of that amount is obligated for debt service on previous facility construction, bus leases and technology leases.
That leaves $10 million for general building and grounds repairs and maintenance, furniture replacement, carpeting and paint, software, educational equipment and band instruments, classroom technology, staff technology and vehicles. These revenues are not enough to cover the replacement of parking lots, roofs, etc. at almost $1 billion in total assets. It also doesn’t allow us to save money for future projects like expanding WHS or building an elementary school.
Why can’t the District pay for these projects with other income or savings?
As one of the largest school districts in Iowa, our 21-building, 56-square-mile campus requires approximately 30 million dollars every year in infrastructure maintenance. This calculation is derived from assuming 3% in costs related to our total assets of $1 billion.
While we obtain funding from sources such as PPEL and SAVE (see above), these funds are not enough to cover the cost of maintaining our infrastructure, not to mention planning for the future of the District.
Additionally, we educate approximately 500 students each year without state funding due to how public schools are funded in Iowa (one year behind). The funding formula makes it very difficult to save for future projects, as currently available funds are used in real time for student, staff, and building needs.
What is the schedule for the proposed projects?
The bond referendum will finance projects for the next decade.This referendum is a little different to the past as it allows us to plan for the future of our District at a more detailed level than the past together with PPEL and SAVE. For example, the bond referendum includes new track and turf at Waukee Northwest High School, a project that likely won’t begin until 2031. Another example is the Eason parking lot.—tThe east lot is fairly new, but the west lot is in desperate need of replacement.
Will this increase my taxes?
No. Passage of the referendum allows the district to issue bonds (or borrow money) for the listed capital projects. The maximum allowable tax burden for debt service payments is 4.05 per $1,000. Because the tax base is growing and we are paying down the principal balance of the outstanding debt each year, we can structure the bond debt service payments to be made using the tax amount already authorized. We will issue debt in several different transactions to ensure that our debt payments can be made within the $4.05 lien.
What about secondary school number 3 and additional primary schools?
Funds to purchase the land for Middle School #3 are already in the works. bonus 2020. If approved, funds from the 2023 bond referendum would go toward construction of Elementary School No. 12 and purchasing land for Elementary School No. 13. If growth occurs faster than anticipated, Waukee CSD has additional linking capacity to build if needed.
What about the 2020 bond referendum?
Waukee CSD is still working on projects funded by the 2020 Bond Referendum. However, the 10-year timeline of the 2020 bond referendum has been accelerated to meet the needs of our District, which is one of the fastest growing districts in the state. For example, Waterford Elementary School was not planned to open until 2026. Construction began in 2022 and the building will open to students in the fall of 2024. We are proposing the 2023 bond referendum to provide the best education for our students and Invest in the future of our community.