Higher valuation but no windfall for Nell Holcomb

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Amid the rolling fields and forested hills north of Cape Girardeau, upscale homes increasingly dot the landscape.

But it's more than a pretty picture. Residential development adds to the tax base and the solid financial health of the rural Nell Holcomb School District.

"For a small district, we can't complain," said superintendent David Fuemmeler.

The district's tax levy stands at $3.13 per $100 assessed valuation, the lowest of any school district in Cape Girardeau County, Fuemmeler said.

The small school district has an enrollment of about 290 children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The district is one of about 70 in the state with no high school, he said.

Buoyed by the construction of upscale homes, the district's assessed valuation has climbed from nearly $35.2 million in 2003 to more than $38.5 million this year.

Fuemmeler said residential growth has added $1.7 million to the district's total assessed valuation. The assessed valuation of homes in the 40-square-mile district totals nearly $15 million.

But the residential growth doesn't mean a monetary windfall for the district, Cape Girardeau County Assessor Jerry Reynolds.

That's because state funding is tied partly to local tax revenue, Reynolds said. School districts benefit from the increased assessed valuation from new construction, but state funding is adjusted the next year because of it, he said.

"They take a dollar back for every dollar you get," he said.

As a result, the school district's $2.8 million budget hasn't changed dramatically in recent years. The school operates with a total staff of 45 people, including about 30 teachers.

Even with some residential growth, Fuemmeler said the number of students has increased only slightly.

He said that reflects the fact that many of the new homes are being built by couples whose children are now grown.

"We've picked up 50 kids in the last five or six years," he said of the enrollment.

The school operates out of two buildings bordering Highway 177. One building was renovated a decade ago. A junior-high wing was added in the 1997-1998 school year.

"We have seven classrooms plus a library, science lab and a computer lab in the junior high building," Fuemmeler said.

There's enough in the school buildings to easily handle an enrollment of as many as 400 students, he said.

School officials like what they see in residential growth, but they don't want runaway enrollment growth because that would result in added building costs.

"If you don't outgrow your facilities, it is fine," Fuemmeler said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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