On June 2, the Fredericktown R-I School District is asking the district voters to consider Proposition 2.
The proposition reads, “Shall the Board of Education of the Fredericktown R-I School District, Missouri be authorized to continue the operating tax levy ceiling of $3.9000 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation for the purpose of maintaining and improving district facilities, and paying the increased costs associated with educational programs, attracting and retaining quality education personnel, utilities, and other operational needs of the district?
If this proposition is approved, the current operating tax levy ceiling of the District of $3.9000 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation that was approved through Tax Year 2023 at the February 3, 2009 election is reauthorized and can continue in Tax Year 2024 and each year thereafter.”
Fredericktown R-I Assistant Superintendent Chadd Starkey said in 2009, the district ran a 70 cent tax levy increase which was approved by voters. He said the levy had a sunset on it after 15 years.
“We used the funds from that to help fix the roof and HVAC at the high school,” Starkey said. “It is amazing how fast 15 years goes. The sunset actually applies starting in year 2024 and it will roll back off.”
Starkey said the district is asking voters to keep the tax levy at $3.90 per 100 dollars of assessed valuation. He said if Proposition 2 does not pass, the 70 cents would drop off in 2024 making the tax levy $3.20 per 100 dollars of assessed valuation.
“That 70 cents generates a little over $700,000 a year, so if you do backtrack with me and think about where the district was in 2009 and the improvements that were made with that 70 cents, there’s a bunch of them,” Starkey said. “You just look around, of course the high school roof, we got an addition to the intermediate school, we went out and got a state of the art, or what I would call it, high school gymnasium, with the help of the Foundation, and we want to continue that progress in the future.”
Starkey said, in order for the district to continue to progress similarly in the future, it needs this funding.
“The good thing about this is we’re not asking to go above the $3.90,” Starkey said. “We want to stay at $3.90. Hopefully we get a 'yes' vote on April 7. We’ve got a bunch of projects in mind.”
Starkey said the foundation mentioned help with the high school track that is outdated and an area that needs some work. He said the district has facility needs as well, including the elementary school.
“I’m not saying the 70 cents can take care of all of those, but it would definitely help with that,” Starkey said. “It will keep us up to date. Technology is going crazy right now. We want to keep our kids current with technology so that we can educate them appropriately.”
Starkey said it would be beneficial to the school district if it could make this happen and again stay at the current rate. He said again this would not increase the current rate but stay where it has been since the 2009 vote.
“A question came up at one of the meetings where we were talking about this, what if something happens where the district gets a bunch of funds and you’re saying you want this $3.90 permanently,” Starkey said. “Well we do, but the school board sets the rate every August, so if we had a great jump in our assessed evaluation and we didn’t need the total $3.90, the school board could set the levy at the appropriate level.”
Starkey said the school district is not trying to make money but to keep a balanced budget. He said right now the budget is more than $19 million and the revenue is a little over that, also.
“If we stayed at $3.90, we are basically right on the average of the area schools and slightly below the state average,” Starkey said. “So you know we are just wanting to stay right in the ballpark with everyone at this particular time and hopefully with your support we can get that done.”
Starkey compared the rate of Ste. Genevieve School District saying the town is roughly the same size and its tax rate is $3.459. He said, while the Ste. Gen. rate may be a little bit lower, the big difference is the assessed evaluation of 385 million where Fredericktown School District is assessed at 104 million.
“So you take that and you divide it by 100 and multiply it by the $3.90. That’s how we get the majority of our local funding,” Starkey said. “We get about $4 million, they (Ste. Genevieve School Board) get about $13 million out of their tax levy. Usually, the bigger the school, the slightly lower rate because of their evaluation. We are just trying to stay in the hunt with everyone else.”
Starkey invited anyone who has questions regarding the budget or where money is spent reach out and he will fill them in. He said he is prepared to share if anyone has the time.
“We think we’ve done some good things since 2009, and we want to continue to keep the district moving,” Starkey said. “I’ll just throw out one expense. A new school bus costs $85,000 to $95,000. If it’s handicap accessible with the lift, you are well over $100,000 just for a bus. Things cost a lot of money these days.”
Fredericktown Assistant Superintendent Shannon Henson said, when the middle school burned, a lot of the costs were covered by insurance money, but it was the 70 cents that allowed the district to make the facility something that is best for the kids and the community.
“I don’t think we would have the cafetorium like it is if we wouldn’t have had that 70 cents on top of what we had from the insurance from the fire,” Henson said.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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