Tax increases often involve social justice and fairness issues and should be thoughtfully considered and evaluated for their impact on all, not blindly pursued by government entities to avoid managing and making hard decisions about budgeting the public’s money.
However, as the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) expands and remodels its schools, it is time to consider whether a PERL (Public Education and Recreation Levy) is appropriate. Money from a PERL could be raised district-wide and could be used to help to build and maintain playground and other recreational facilities at elementary, junior high and high schools. In addition, it could be used to help make playgrounds at schools compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Adoption of a PERL would also help avoid some of the inequities that arise when one school has a greater capacity to raise money than another—this is especially important given the gross disparity in free and reduced lunch percentages among ICCSD’s schools.
A downside of a PERL is that it remains in place until voters or the board vote to rescind it. Another downside is that it results in a tax levy on taxable properties to pay for facilities that could otherwise be paid for by current school district revenue sources or fundraising.
While ICCSD does have other funding sources available to pay for playgrounds (e.g. RPS/sales tax money), it is likely that this money is being directed toward other expenses. Many families who opposed using ICCSD’s diversity policy to make free and reduced lunch ratios more balanced among schools were willing to contribute extra resources toward schools in need. Now is the time to consider whether a PERL would have community support and could be used to improve recreational spaces for all children.
For additional information, see the following: https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/school-business-finance/levies-funds/public-education-and-recreation-levy