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Spirit Lake voters to decide PPEL

By Staff | Jan 26, 2008

SPIRIT LAKE — Spirit Lake voters will decide March 18 whether to approve a $1.34 Physical Plant and Equipment Levy that would help offset an expected $600,000 to $1 million revenue shortfall.

The new tax would generate about $1.1 million a year for 10 years.

The Spirit Lake Community School District Board of Education in a special session Wednesday approved taking the PPEL to the voters. It will be the first voter-approved PPEL the district has had. A separate 33-cent PPEL is in place which did not require voter approval.

If approved, the new tax would offset a current cash reserve of $1.38 now in place, meaning there would be no tax increase with this particular issue, according to Superintendent Doug Latham. A simple voter majority would be required for approval.

By using the PPEL revenues to offset certain general revenue budget items, the district will be able to shift funds toward salaries.

“We will be looking at that PPEL for some energy conservation,” Latham said. Those items could include paying off the district’s investment in wind turbines, technology upgrades, grounds improvements, and transportation equipment.

Latham said another future concern is that by 2011 all state school districts could go under the statewide penny tax. Spirit Lake would lose 40-50 percent of its share of the tax if it goes statewide as is expected.

Latham said current enrollment numbers and resulting state aid are not a major concern.

“As for enrollment, we’re holding our own right now,” Latham said, noting enrollment is up by three students from last year.

“We’re just looking at ways to help our general fund,” Latham said. “We’re needing to trim some funding from our budget.”

With an eye toward that goal, Latham said the district could offer early retirement to 12-20 teachers who are eligible. Those positions could be replaced by teachers who would start at salaries lower on the step scale or positions could be consolidated.

Latham attributed much of the expected shortfall to enrollment declines in past years and freezing or limiting of allowable growth.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com