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Public to Vote On Iowa Lakes Tax Levy Renewal

By Staff | Sep 9, 2010

Iowa Lakes Community College is working to inform Palo Alto County residents of an upcoming issue that will appear on the ballot next week. Voters will be asked to renew the Plant Fund Property Tax Levy during a special election on Tuesday, Sept. 14. This is a continuation of the current levy, and not an increase in the levy.

On Tuesday, polls will be open from 12 noon to 8 p.m. Patrons of the Emmetsburg Community School District (CSD) vote at the Election Center in Emmetsburg; Graettinger CSD votes at the Graettinger Public Library and Terril Memorial Building; Ruthven-Ayrshire CSD votes at the Ruthven Social Center; and West Bend-Mallard CSD votes at the West Bend Public Library and the Mallard Community Center. Absentee voting is available at the Auditor’s Office at the Palo Alto County Courthouse from 8 to 11 a.m. on Election Day.

Since 1970, residents of the Iowa Lakes Community College District have renewed their support for the Plant Fund Levy, which results in permanent improvements to the campuses of Iowa Lakes. The Plant Fund Levy raises $909,000 each year to improve the five campuses of the college. The current levy will expire in 2012.

Under Iowa Law, community college boards are allowed to ask voters to approve a property tax levy that may be used for the construction and maintenance of buildings, renovations (which includes instructional equipment), and library acquisitions. The election requires a simple majority to pass (50-percent plus one). Four-percent of Iowa Lakes’ budget is from property taxes. The largest funding source is tuition at 47-percent. The second largest source of funding is state support at 32-percent.

The levy is based on assessed valuation at 20 1/4 cents per $1,000. For example, a homeowner whose home is assessed at $100,000, and after the property tax rollback of 53.096-percent, pays $9.50 per year, or 83-cents per month.

In the past, Plant Fund Levy proceeds have been used for the Wind Technology Building and Program, Technology Education Center, Construction Technology Building, Criminal Justice Building, Addition to Algona Campus, Marine, Small Engine & Welding Programs Improvements, Fire Training Facility & Program, Maintenance of Buildings College-Wide, Student Services Addition, Baseball Field Construction, Heating and Air Conditioning, and Science Labs.

The college is planning on using the renewed Plant Fund Levy for technology (creating a telepresence for all five campuses at $2,000,000), energy efficient heating and air conditioning throughout the college ($2,500,000), classroom updates and expansion (eight science labs and three computer labs at $2,300,000), modernization of the Emmetsburg Campus ($525,000), and an upgrade of the auditoriums at the  Emmetsburg and Estherville campuses ($800,000).

The story of Iowa Lakes in Palo Alto County began with the formation of the junior college in 1930. When the Community College System was established in 1968, Iowa Lakes and the school district merged their junior colleges and construction of a new campus began. The expansion of college facilities has progressed each decade, including new dormitories added in 1987 and 1994. The Library and Wellness Center was opened in 1998 in cooperation with the City of Emmetsburg and through a donation from the Smith family, as well as significant community support.

Last fall, 125 students in Palo Alto County were taking dual credit classes at the college and a total of 393 county residents were enrolled in credit classes, which is 11.8-percent of the student body.

The college has been vital in the economic development of Palo Alto County, securing $1.1 million in training assistance for local companies such as Ag Processing, Marietta Corporation, POET Biorefining, Pro Cooperative, and Smarts Broadcasting. A total of 186 new jobs were created in the county through 260E New Jobs Training Agreements, which enabled 186 workers and their families to live and work in Palo Alto County and the surrounding area. Furthermore, 219 workers who were already employed upgraded their skills through Iowa Lakes.

More information about the levy may be found online at: www.iowalakesplantfundlevy.com.