PPEL passes in FD

Fort Dodge voters approved an increase of the physical plant and equipment levy Tuesday.

With 3,306 ballots cast, 1,708 voted “yes” for the special election measure, which both renews the 67-cent levy for another 10-year period and also increases it by 67 cents.

With the 33 cents approved by the Fort Dodge Community School District board, this gives the district the maximum $1.67 levy through 2024.

This is the second special election on the PPEL in recent months.

In December – with only 7 percent of registered voters participating – the measure failed by a 726-584 vote.

“I’m very appreciative of folks in Fort Dodge,” Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said. “It was a much better voter turnout. We had over 3,000 people as compared to little over a thousand last time. I feel like our board did an excellent job of getting out, trying to get the information out to people. And it looks like it paid off.”

Voter turnout Tuesday was roughly 17.5 percent.

The approved levy will give the district a yearly $1.5 million in funds exclusively for building maintenance, transportation, security and repairs.

“We’re going to be able to take a look at some of the items that have been lacking over the last few years,” Van Zyl said,”and really take a look at that priority list and try to get some of those items accomplished, whether it’s technology, security. We have bus bids we’re going to have to take a look at shortly. So we’ll be able to start planning and using those dollars in the near future.”

The voter approval of the increased levy will keep the school district from having to make tough budget choices, Stuart Cochrane, FDCSD board president, said.

“While it doesn’t certainly eliminate all our problems with finances, in terms of our general fund, it goes a long ways to at least make sure for the next 10 years we’re in a position to continue to repair and renovate and keep our buildings they way they need to look,” he said.

According to Van Zyl, increasing the levy will benefit the community.

“To me, it speaks very well of our community that folks are wanting to get behind education,” he said. “They know the value of education and are willing to support our kids, our staff and are willing to move Fort Dodge forward.”

While the levy renewal and increase passed by only 111 votes, the voter turnout was more than twice what it was in December.

“I think it’s a reflection that we did get information out there that we didn’t get out last time,” Cochrane said. “Voters turned out in much greater numbers and the majority voted yes. Obviously, would I have liked to have seen a greater percentage in favor? Of course. But unfortunately, in this day and age, when you’re talking about tax dollars it’s difficult to get people to vote yes.”

Cochrane describes the passing of the levy as “a win for education.”

“Enough people showed up and said yes, education in this community and maintaining those buildings is important to us,” he said. “Even though we may not have won by a tremendous margin, we are still just very thankful the community believes enough in education to vote ‘yes.'”