Three school tax issues to be on April ballot

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Two small Southeast Missouri school districts have tax issues on the April 3 ballot in an effort to get more state aid, and a third district has a bond issue on the ballot for the second time since November.

Perryville school officials once again are asking voters to approve a $3.36 million general obligation bond issue to retire existing debt and free up operating-fund money to make needed improvements on campus.

Voters rejected the measure Nov. 7 by nearly 1,000 votes.

"The unfortunate thing is we have a long history in our community of having a difficult time of passing tax issues," said school board president Scott Cooper.

The measure would increase the school district's levy by 31 cents per $100 assessed valuation for six years to pay off the bonds.

Voter approval would increase the district's tax rate from $3.20 to $3.51 per $100 assessed valuation. But after six years, the rate would drop back to the level it was at before the bond issue, school officials said.

It takes a supermajority of just over 57 percent to pass the measure, school officials said.

The Delta and Altenburg school districts hope to tap into state funding for smaller school districts by raising their operating levies. Both of their measures need simple majorities to pass.

The Delta School District has a total levy of $3.63 per $100 assessed valuation. The tax proposal would shift 20 cents of that levy from debt service to the operating levy to bring the latter up to the $3.43 funding threshold.

"It would increase our state aid by about $30,000 a year," said Delta superintendent Nathan Crowden.

'Good for our district'

"We feel like it is good for our district," said Crowden, adding the tax levy shift can be accomplished without a tax increase.

The Altenburg School District wants to raise its operating levy from $3.07 to $3.43, Hoffman said.

The actual measure would allow the district to raise the levy by 53 cents to $3.60 per $100 assessed valuation. But Hoffman said the school board only intends to raise the tax rate by 36 cents.

Hoffman said the measure was crafted to allow the district flexibility to adjust the levy if the assessed valuation goes up and the state requires a tax rollback. The school board wants to make sure that the levy doesn't dip below the $3.43 threshold for added state funding, Hoffman said.

The tax levy increase would generate about $85,000 to $100,000 annually in additional revenue, Hoffman said. That would include $27,000 more in annual state aid.

The added revenue would be spent on school maintenance and operations. Some of the money would go to help build up the district's building fund.

Hoffman said the district is growing. "We have a much larger high school population coming down the pike," he said.

Boosting the building fund balance will put the district in a position to consider constructing a new school building in the next three to five years, Hoffman said.

The fund won't be large enough to pay the entire construction cost, he said. "We will probably have to consider a lease-purchase arrangement," Hoffman said.

In the Perryville School District, approval of a bond issue would provide revenue for the district to pay the remainder it owes on lease-purchase agreements dating back to 1993, school officials said.

Those lease-purchase agreements allowed the Perryville School District to construct, remodel and renovate the elementary, middle and high schools.

The district uses money from its operating fund to make payments on the debt. The payment this year would be more than $600,000, officials said.

By freeing up annual operating-fund revenue, the district could construct classrooms to replace trailers now used to house some classes at the elementary and middle schools, officials said.

School officials also want to replace outdated computers and heating and air-conditioning units, construct a nurse's office for the elementary school, and replace windows to improve energy efficiency. Also on the drawing board are expanded parking for the high school and replacement of school roofs as needed.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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