When the Cherokee Community School District Board of Education approved a resolution to extend the District's Revenue Purpose Statement in October, Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom emphasized that the statewide penny sales tax revenue is specifically designed for property tax relief for all landowners in the District.
The School Election is set for Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Cherokee Community Center for all eligible voters in the Cherokee School District regarding the State Penny for School Infrastructure and Property Tax Relief.
In 1998, the Iowa Legislature created the school infrastructure local option (SILO) sales tax. By 2007, voters in all 99 counties had approved a SILO.
In 2008, the Legislature replaced the SILO with a state penny for school infrastructure and property tax relief through Dec. 31, 2029.
This changed the voting from a county-wide format to a school district-wide election, allowing districts to have one set of ballot language governing expenditures.
The state penny continues the SILO requirement of voter approval of a Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) to authorize expenditures of the sales tax once their first SILO expires. This vote does not determine whether the tax will be collected, as State Law imposes the penny of sales tax. The RPS directs how the revenues for the school district will be spent.
Sales tax revenues for schools are covered under the Iowa Code. Revenues may be used for school infrastructure or property tax relief as defined in the Iowa Code. The law further prohibits a future Legislature from changing the uses of the state penny unless they have a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.
The Cherokee School District's state penny revenues fluctuate each year as they are based on sales tax receipts which naturally fluctuate with the economy.
According to Chalstrom, the District annually receives an approximate $650,000 from the state penny revenue pool, with most of that in the past applied directly to bond relief. The current figures represent an estimated $2.47 per $1,000 valuation in property tax relief.
Among specific uses for the revenues by the school district include construction, reconstruction, repair, and demolition work; purchasing or remodeling of schoolhouses, stadiums, gyms, fieldhouses, and bus garages; procurement of schoolhouse construction sites and site improvements; the payment or retirement of property tax or sales tax revenue bonds; and purchasing advances in technology for students.
The Cherokee School District's current RPS is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2013; hence, the timing of this year's election on Dec. 4. Iowa school districts are limited to four special election dates each year, the first Tuesday in December being one of them.
The Cherokee School District last approved the vote in 2003.
Chalstrom cautions voters that a no vote will not make the state penny tax go away.
"It's a very popular tax designed for property tax relief that all Iowa school districts share in," explained Chalstrom. "Those monies can't be used for the General Fund but for the designated purposes only - property tax relief and qualifying capitol improvements for the District.
"We encourage people to go to the polls Tuesday and vote yes. It's a win-win for all involved. It's a one-cent statewide sales tax that really benefits our schools and taxpayers."