Western Dubuque School District faces bond and PPEL vote - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Western Dubuque School District faces bond and PPEL vote

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EPWORTH (KWWL) -

The Western Dubuque School District is in need of some major upgrades in security, facilities and technology, its administrators say.

These projects, of course, come with a price tag of millions of dollars.

Superintendent Jeff Corkery, however, said the district can fund the projects without raising property taxes.

The district's upgrade wish list includes an auditorium for Western Dubuque High School.

The band, choir and theater students have to perform in the school's original gym, and senior Ryan Schmitt it's not the greatest venue for a concert.

"Since this is a gym, other activities use this gym as well," he said, standing in the cavernous space Monday afternoon. "Being in show choir, band and the musical, I have to compete with, like, after school sports, like track and like basketball. We have a problem with that, too. We can't perform here at the same time."

Schmitt, 18, said he'd already voted in favor of both of the issues via an absentee ballot and that his mother is involved with Our Future Now, a volunteer group of parents and community members working to educate the public about the vote.

Freshman flute player Brooke Bockenstedt, whose grandmother taught choir at Western Dubuque High School, is involved with band, show choir and the musical. She said the school's arts programs have outgrown their facilities.

"The choir room's the same as when my grandma taught, and the band room's getting smaller, I guess," Bockenstedt said. "It's just, we need more room."

On Tuesday, voters within the district will decide whether to pass a bond issue and PPEL, or physical plant and equipment levy. "Yes" on both ballot issues would give the district access to $24 million for upgrades that include security concerns.

At both Cascade and Western Dubuque high schools, people can walk through the front doors virtually undetected. There are security cameras, but Western Dubuque High School principal Dave Hoeger said that's not enough.

"We don't get to see this entrance and we just don't really have any control over it, so our goal is to bring our office area out to this setting so that students and parents, after the school day starts, have to go through the office or at least be witnessed by the office as they're entering," Hoeger said Monday, standing in the unguarded entryway to the school.

"This is property tax neutral, and by property tax neutral, I mean that taxes will not increase one penny whether these issues pass or fail," superintendent Corkery said Monday. "The increase of any tax is going to be offset by use of the one-cent sales tax and reducing some of the other levies in the general fund, so-- property tax neutral."

With voters' approval, the district would be able to issue a general obligation bond of up to $16.5 million and implement an approximately $7.5 million tax levy.

The district said it would allocate $7 million to Cascade High School for classroom, security, locker room and gym upgrades; $7 million to Western Dubuque High School for an auditorium and security upgrades and $1 million to Drexler Middle School for classroom upgrades. It would also use $1.5 million for technology upgrades and other miscellaneous items throughout the district.

According to the district's Website, "Unrelated ballot issues such as increased enrollment, special education deficit, and changes in state funding laws, or valuations, however, are not controlled by the District and therefore will continue to be factors whether the issues pass or not."

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and close 8 p.m.

Voting sites are at the following locations:

Luxemburg City Hall

Dyersville Memorial Hall

Peosta Community Center

Epworth City Council Chambers

Farley Memorial Hall

Cascade Memorial Building

Bernard Fire Station

Information on the two issues, plus links to Frequently Asked Questions and a detailed explanation of how the bond and PPEL would work, can be found HERE.

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