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Preparing for the PPEL
By ANDREA FURLONG
In one week, taxpayers will cast their vote on the future of Williamsburg Elementary.
The vote on the Williamsburg School District’s proposed Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) will be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 6, at the Williamsburg Recreation Center. The levy is proposed at $1.34 per $1,000 of taxable valuation and would generate approximately $3.5 million over 10 years, beginning during the 2010-2011 school year. The school board said the outcome of the vote will determine which one of two paths the district takes: whether to build a $3.5 million preK-1 addition onto Mary Welsh Elementary and close Williamsburg Elementary or invest approximately $850,000 to renovate the 1934 preK-1 building.
Superintendent Dr. Carol Montz explained the question of whether to renovate or close Williamsburg Elementary is a result of the district’s two-year study of needed structural improvements within its two elementary schools and high school. During the study, the district formed a buildings and grounds committee of approximately 40 people. The committee assessed the condition of all three buildings and made recommendations to the board.
After discovering $850,000 worth of needed renovations at Williamsburg Elementary, the committee recommended the construction of an addition onto Mary Welsh that would support the building’s 140 students, so that Williamsburg Elementary could be closed.
MAINTAINING W’BURG ELEMENTARY
Dr. Montz said the approximately $850,000 of needed renovations to Williamsburg Elementary include:
• Renovation of all restrooms. Not all are handicap accessible.
• Renovation of the cafeteria. Cooks can serve food, but not prepare it in the kitchen, because it does not meet state guidelines for food preparation.
• Repairs to the playground and parking lot, which have potholes.
• Replacement of windows, which are single pane, would shatter easily if hit and are not energy efficient.
• Tuck pointing.
The estimate would be at least $1 million if the district were to install air conditioning throughout the building and renovate the building’s original infrastructure from 1934, Montz noted.
“Probably the biggest issue is that only one- fourth of the building is air conditioned and that the existing infrastructure, the steam pipes, are very aged. We had one break in one of the classrooms during Christmas and that floor is now warped,” she said.
Montz also noted the elementary’s exposed radiators are a concern to many teachers.
“They try to keep children away from them, so that they won’t get burned,” she said.
ADDING ONTO MARY WELSH 
The $3.5 million the PPEL would generate would fund a 10-classroom wing and at least 26 additional parking spots at Mary Welsh Elementary. It would also include a car drop-off point away from the main entrance.
The location would be safer for students, because children would not have to cross a main highway to walk to school, as they do with Williamsburg Elementary, Montz noted.
The district anticipates the closure of Williamsburg Elementary would save money on transportation costs, custodial costs and some staffing costs (cooks, secretaries and library staff). It would also save money on heating costs, as it costs nearly twice as much to heat Williamsburg Elementary at $2.10 per square foot, than it does for Mary Welsh at $1.12 per square foot.
If the vote passed, bids for the addition would be issued this summer. Children at Williamsburg Elementary would start attending Mary Welsh prior to the start of the 2012-2013 school year. Montz said the district would likely sell the building or demolish it if it could not be sold.
To give taxpayers an idea of the impact of the PPEL, Montz asked Iowa County Assessor Linda Griggs to calculate the cost of Montz’ residential property. With Iowa County’s residential rollback of 46.9 percent, Montz would pay $112.56 of PPEL taxes on her $179,350 property.
Should the vote fail, Montz said she foresees the district would need to continually invest funds into renovating Williamsburg Elementary, which is 65 years older than Mary Welsh Elementary.
“In the end it’s still a building that was built in 1934,” she said.

UPDATED March 31, 2010 1:54 PM

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