Question: The Declaratory Order states that “we assume that most of the expenditures associated with the 1:1 laptop initiative are appropriate from PPEL unless it appears that a more appropriate fund exists from which to pay an expenditure.” How does the Declaratory Order reconcile with Iowa Code and Iowa Administrative Code? For example, Iowa Code states that maintenance is not a PPEL expenditure in 298.3(1), paragraph “f” and in 298.3(4) states that PPEL shall not be expended for employee salaries or travel expenses, supplies, printing costs, or media services, etc. Iowa Administrative Code subrule 281--98.64(3) repeats these disallowed uses:
“Inappropriate expenditures in the PPEL fund include the following:
a. Student construction.
b. Salaries and benefits.
e. Facility, vehicle, or equipment maintenance.
f. Printing costs or media services.
g. Any other purpose not expressly authorized in the Iowa Code.”
Answer: The response is two-fold. One portion deals with the disallowed costs in 298.3(4) and the other portion deals with the definition of maintenance as used in 298.3(1).
A. Previous guidance given to districts regarding this issue in PPEL in 298.3(4) has stated that stand-alone costs included in the list of disallowed items (employee salaries or travel expenses, supplies, printing costs, or media services) would not be appropriate from PPEL. That same paragraph in Iowa Code goes on to state “or for any other purpose not expressly authorized in this section.” The guidance given to districts has said that those same items that are an integral part of an expressly allowed expenditure from PPEL were not intended to be disallowed by that paragraph. For example, general supplies would not be appropriate from PPEL, but supplies that are necessary for the purchase and improvement of grounds, construction of facilities, repairing, remodeling, energy conservation, and demolition would be allowable from PPEL because those activities are specifically and expressly authorized in the Iowa Code section. The Declaratory Order has added “technology” to the list of activities where those costs from paragraph (4) are allowable when they are an integral part of technology.
B. The term “maintenance” is used loosely to describe various activities. However, the law and court cases have a narrower definition of what is meant by that term. “Maintenance” and “repair” are separated, and each definition excludes the other. “Maintenance” in those cases means to cause to remain in a state of good repair; it includes cleaning, upkeep, preventative maintenance, keeping equipment in effective working condition and ready for daily use, minor repairs, replacing parts, inspecting for needed maintenance, preserving the existing state or condition, preventing a decline in the existing state or condition. Repair means restoring an existing structure or thing to its original condition, as near as may be, after decay, waste, injury, or partial destruction. This is the definition intended in section 298.3(1).
What is commonly called “maintenance” related to technology is not what the definition in law or court cases has meant; instead, districts are actually referring to a license renewal fee; technical assistance support contract; Internet subscriptions, licenses and fees; or cable or satellite services, etc. That is the meaning of maintenance from the laundry list in the Declaratory Order of potential items that fit within the definition of “technology.”