Letter to the Editor

Power of the penny

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

I recently emerged from a store on a beautiful day in the Iowa Great Lakes. On my way to the car, I stepped over a lost penny on the ground. In today's society, we often think of a single penny as something without much value. It can seem like a nuisance to carry the extra weight around in a pocket or handbag, and we’re quick to toss a single penny into the change cup at the gas station for the next person who might need one.

When one is dropped accidentally, we often don't see the value in pausing to pick it up. I am grateful that in 2008 the Iowa Legislature recognized the value of one penny to schools across our state by passing the statewide one-cent sales tax legislation. In 2012, voters in Spirit Lake approved a revenue purpose statement authorizing the school district to access those funds for needed infrastructure projects through 2031.

While a penny may not seem like much, those cents add up over time. Residents and our area's many visitors combine to generate about $1 million per year for the Spirit Lake Community Schools through this important legislation.

With all those pennies, our district has completed a number of needed projects. Food service preparation was relocated to the elementary/middle school campus for improved efficiency, and upgraded food service equipment has been placed in all buildings. Additionally, state penny funds have covered remodeling at the high school, a bus purchase, and a plethora of technology needs throughout the district for both staff and students. The state penny has proven to be a powerful tool for Iowa districts, and earlier this year the legislature authorized a new 20 year extension of the program through 2051.

As I paused in the parking lot last week to pick up that shiny lost penny, I was reminded of the opportunity, value, and potential that is found in just one cent. A simple penny holds the power to allow continued fulfillment of the school district's mission to help all students learn and become responsible citizens. As my neighbors in the Spirit Lake community, you are also being asked to see the value of the penny and vote yes to extend our collective commitment to put its power to work for our students and staff.

On Sept. 10, voters in the Spirit Lake Community School District have the opportunity to go to the polls to approve an amended revenue purpose statement for the district. Your yes vote will allow Spirit Lake Schools to have continued access to one-cent sales tax funds for all the uses that had previously been allowed, including facility upgrades, student technology, and software. The newly passed legislation expands use of these funds to also allow expenditures for vital campus safety systems and emergency communication needs. A yes vote on Sept. 10 does not increase property taxes. A yes vote does allow our district to continue to use the state penny as another vehicle to undertake responsible and necessary expenditures, and maintain a sustainable budget.

Absentee voting is underway now at the auditor’s office in the Dickinson County Courthouse, and the polls will be open on Sept. 10 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Kerri McKim

Director, Spirit Lake Community School District