Dubuque Community Schools leaders will ask voters this fall for permission to pay for new sales-tax-funded projects.

School board members on Monday approved a revenue purpose statement outlining how they intend to spend money collected via the state’s 1-cent sales tax and to place the statement on the Nov. 5 ballot.

“It’s a reaffirmation of the community saying that they support the way we’ve spent the money in the past, so therefore going forward, they have confidence in the way we spend the money,” said Board President Tami Ryan.

State lawmakers this year passed legislation extending the 1-cent sales tax for school infrastructure from the end of 2029 to Jan. 1, 2051. The law also set a Jan. 1, 2031, expiration date on the revenue purpose statement that district voters approved in 2009.

Voters must approve a new revenue purpose statement in order for the district to borrow against sales tax money that would come in during the years covered by the sales tax extension, according to Kevin Kelleher, the district’s executive director of finance and business services.

Since lawmakers passed the extended sales tax, school board members have discussed using the funds for a second round of renovations at Dubuque Senior High School, among other projects.

“If the board would like to continue with the improvements with Senior, we would have to sell bonds again, and that would be used against future revenue of the extended period, so we would have to have the revenue purpose statement approved by the voters in order to do that,” Kelleher said.

Under the proposed revenue purpose statement, the district would be able to use the sales-tax funding for any use allowable under the state’s sales tax law. Permitted uses would include funding for:

  • Information technology infrastructure
  • Construction of, additions to or renovation of school buildings
  • Purchase of land for construction projects
  • Payment of principal and interest on bonds
  • Providing property tax relief

Without a new revenue purpose statement, district officials would have to use sales tax funds first to pay down bonds and reduce some property tax levies before they could spend the money on infrastructure projects, according to board documents. That would not go into effect until the current revenue purpose statement expires, however.

The measure will require simple majority approval to pass.

“Until that is passed really, the board can’t look long term to do any new additional projects outside of what has already been planned and underway,” Kelleher said.

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