A scant .29 percent of the eligible voters in the Cherokee Community School District, on a 147-14 vote, approved the District's Revenue Purpose Statement in a special election Tuesday at the Cherokee Community Center polls.
There were 161 votes cast, including one absentee ballot, with the unofficial tally showing 147 yes votes and 14 no votes. The measure targets the State Penny Sales Tax for School Infrastructure and Property Tax Relief.
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 designed for property tax relief for all landowners in the District.
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 revenues, 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.
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. The new RPS approved Tuesday will remain in effect until replaced or amended by the Cherokee Community School District.