The Clinton School Board voted this week to bring the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy back to voters in March, just 6 months after it fell 54 votes shy of extension.

We applaud the board for this step. The elected officials truly believe the funding stream provided by PPEL is essential to district operations and are fully within their rights under Iowa law to bring the failed issue back to the public.

With so few votes coming between yes and no, it seems such a closely divided community should have another chance to make a solid statement. Furthermore, if the vote passes March 7, the district’s budget won’t be affected by a funding gap as the new PPEL will kick in for a seamless transition as the old one expires.

As we said in August, PPEL needs to be approved because the money it provides is used for very essential purposes: Maintenance and upgrades to the district’s physical infrastructure.

The school district currently operates more than 10 buildings and is in the process of building two new schools. Having PPEL in place allows the district to fund maintenance of those buildings to keep them modern and safe learning environments for our students.

To that end, the board must do a better job of explaining to the public why the projects it intends to fund with PPEL, including renovations to the Vernon Cook Little Theatre at Clinton High School and a dramatic athletic complex strategy, are fundamental to improved educational opportunities and environments for the district students.

We agree with board members who say the district must identify the way PPEL funds will be spent and do as much as possible to assure the public there is no need to max out the levy options.

Some board members have said private contributions will be sought to offset some of the costs of projects. If that’s the case, we’d like the board to commit to funding it will provide and how much will come from private sources. Otherwise, it may be too tempting in the future to increase levy rates to fill the gap if fund-raising isn’t as vibrant as expected.

Above all, the public needs to be aware of what it is voting for. We believe PPEL to be essential to the district’s operations and stand by our support for its renewal. But our voice is not enough, it’s the voters who count in this issue. And some of them, as we can tell from early feedback, still need to be convinced.

And, as we have seen in recent years, that is no simple task.

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