2023 Bond Referendum
According to unofficial results, Dallas County voters approved the two 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 funding available to the District
Approval of these measures will not impact the District’s portion of residents’ property tax rate.
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 transportation and operations center
- New parking lots and roof replacements on multiple 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 the Waukee Innovation & Learning Center and Natatorium
- Safety/security updates
- Improved technology
- Expansion of the District Office
- Finances to purchase land for future sites
For more details, see the Sept. 6 Town Hall slide deck.
Physical Plant & Equipment Levy (PPEL)
This will extend the physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) funding available to our District, which will:
- Support grounds improvement, equipment, repairs, remodels, and transportation equipment
- Ensure our students receive the highest quality education in modern, well-maintained school facilities
The current PPEL is set to expire in 2026. Securing these funding streams now allows for growth into the next decade—and investment in the future of our community.
Our school buildings deteriorate over time due to normal wear and tear. We know that well-maintained, updated facilities can enhance the learning environment, improve safety, and provide our students and staff with modern amenities.
Our two main funding streams—the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and the Statewide Penny of Sales Tax (SAVE)—do not generate enough revenue to cover the annual maintenance costs for our facilities, in addition to supporting technology needs for students and classrooms (including our 1:1 initiative), and buses and other vehicles. Therefore, a separate funding source, such as a bond referendum, is necessary for capital projects and major infrastructure updates.
We have a proud history in Waukee CSD of maintaining our facilities and not deferring maintenance to the extent possible. Without a referendum, we would need to transition to a model that includes deferred maintenance. This presents challenges in the long run, such as changes in materials and ongoing inflation, in tandem with the overall decline in the quality of the experiences for those using the facilities. In this model, the cost of returning our facilities to their original quality would become increasingly expensive over time.
The majority of the school property taxes that are paid go into the general fund. The general fund pays for the day-to-day costs of operating our District, with the staff costs comprising the largest portion of the budget. Because schools are funded on student enrollment and that count is a year behind, we educate approximately 500 students annually with no additional revenue for them from the state. As such, we have one of the lowest per student expenditures in Iowa.
A portion of the property taxes go toward the voter-approved PPEL. These funds are used for school infrastructure and are described in other questions in this FAQ.
Another portion of the property tax is the repayment 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 levy rate and it is the reason why the tax rate will not increase if the referendum passes.
Our annual revenue from SAVE is approximately $16 million; PPEL is approximately $11 million—for a total of approximately $27 million in annual funding. About $17 million of that is committed for debt service on the construction of previous facilities, bus leases, and technology leases.
That leaves $10 million for general repairs and maintenance on buildings and grounds, furniture replacements, carpet and painting, software, instructional equipment and band instruments, classroom technology, staff technology, and vehicles. This is not enough revenue to cover the replacement of parking lots, roofs, etc. on nearly $1 billion in total assets. Nor does it allow us to save money for future projects like the addition at WHS, or to build an elementary school.
As one of Iowa’s largest school districts, our campus of 21 buildings and 56 square miles requires approximately $30 million each year in infrastructure maintenance. This calculation is derived from assuming 3% in costs related to our total assets of $1 billion.
While we get funding from sources such as PPEL and SAVE (see above), this funding is not enough to cover the cost of our infrastructure maintenance, not to mention planning for the future of the District.
In addition, we educate approximately 500 students each year without funding from the state due to how public schools are funded in Iowa (a year in arrears). The funding formula makes it very difficult to save for future projects as the current available funds are used in real time for student, staff, and building needs.
The bond referendum will fund projects for the next decade. This referendum is a bit different than in the past, as it allows us to plan for the future of our District at a more granular level than the past in tandem 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 parking lot at Eason—the east lot there is quite new, but the west lot is in dire need of replacement.
No. The referendum approval allows the district to issue bonds (or borrow money) for the stated capital projects. The maximum tax levy allowed 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 outstanding debt each year, we are able to structure the bond debt service payments to be made using the tax levy amount already authorized. We will issue debt in several different transactions to ensure our debt payments can be made within the $4.05 levy.
Funding to purchase land for high school #3 is already in the 2020 bond. If approved, funds in the 2023 bond referendum would go toward building elementary #12 and purchasing land for elementary #13. If growth happens faster than predicted, Waukee CSD does have additional bonding capacity to build if it’s needed.
The Waukee CSD is still working through projects being paid for 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 wasn’t planned to open until 2026. Construction started 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.