Bettendorf school plans could require hefty increase in tax levy; expiration of 1-cent school sales tax may require seeking voter approval of bond issues

The substantial and controversial Bettendorf school district plan to spend more than $62-million for a second new elementary school and district-wide building improvements could require hefty increases in property taxes for homeowners, particularly if the state 1-cent sales tax for schools isn't renewed soon by the state legislature.

The school district has identified dozens of building projects, including construction of a new $14-million three-section elementary school that would be needed if Jefferson and Mark Twain Elementary Schools are closed.

But with the state 1-cent school sales tax set to expire in 2029 without an extension by the state legislature, the district won't be able to finance the entire list of upgrades without obtaining additional money from higher taxes.

Under one of three scenarios outlined to the board last Saturday (2/3), an estimated $46 million in general obligation bonds would be issued by the district.

Sales tax revenue and money from the district's management fund would be used to abate part of the tax levy increase needed for that option, but property owners would still need to pay an additional $26.4 million in taxes to fund the entire $62.5 million in district-wide facility upgrades.

That option would hike the school property tax levy by $1 per thousand dollars assessed valuation. For a homeowner with a house assessed at $250,000, the tax increase would be $134 per year.

Under scenario two, district property owners would see a nearly $13 million increase in taxes, supplemented with remaining sales tax revenue until 2029, the district's accumulated cash, plus PPEL (physical plant and equipment levy) money. That option would result in an increase of 50 cents per thousand dollars assessed value, or approximately $67 annually for a homeowner with a house assessed at $250,000.

The third financing plan laid out by the district's consultant would only fund $54 million of the $62.5-million improvement plan and would draw on the remaining sales tax revenues through 2029, plus essentially all of the PPEL money normally set aside for general maintenance, technology upgrades and transportation expenses. Under that scaled back $54-million plan, no general obligation bonds would need to be issued.

If the district were to chose either of the two scenarios requiring general obligation bonds, a referendum would need to be held and the district would need to obtain approval by 60 percent of the voters in that special election.

Because of the difficulty in obtaining voter approval of tax increases, several board members voiced support for the third option in the district work session. However, it wasn't clear what upgrades would be cut from the list of improvements to lower the overall district-wide building plan.

Also at the Saturday work session, City Administrator Decker Ploehn told the board it is unlikely the city council would approve use of McManus Park (a.k.a. Rocket Park) for the site of a new three-section elementary building. And, he confirmed that use of Edgewood Park would require approval by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the National Park Service since the city had used federal Land and Water Conservation Funds for park improvements.

That approval process could take anywhere from 8 months to 18 months, according to IDNR officials.

CLICK HERE to download the financial scenarios outlined to the Bettendorf School Board to finance a proposed $62.5 million district-wide facility upgrade.

CLICK HERE to use the Scott County property tax calculator to determine the impact of a 50-cent or $1 increase in school district tax levy on your home.

Go to top