Ladue School Board Member Andy Bresler says that a tax levy increase is the only way to keep the district from falling behind other St. Louis County school systems.
But despite his support, Bresler says that potential opposition to the proposal “scares the heck out of him.” He envisioned a placard that states “Say No to a 41.5 Percent Increase” if one option presented at a Monday meeting is on the ballot.
“It’s going to give me chest pains as I drive down McKnight Road on the way home,” Bresler said.
“It speaks to how important it is that we ask for enough, but not too much,” he added. “Because that number is going to be out there. And candidly, even as a person who supports education… we shouldn’t be asking for any more than we really need to get the quality of education that we need to do.”
Ladue School Board members expressed views on the composition and the presentation of a tax levy proposal that could come early next year. The discussing emanated during a presentation on the district’s long-term financial future.
Ladue School District Superintendent Marsha Chappelow and Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Jason Buckner provided a presentation to the board showcasing various projects based on different tax levy increases. You can view the presentation by clicking here.
“Most bond or levy issues have more of a chance of passing if you do your homework or you do your planning,” Chappelow said. “Tonight is really the first step in that process.”
A community survey on the matter would have to be drafted relatively quickly, Chappelow said, in order to get feedback in time to put the ballot measure up for a vote in February 2012.
The first proposal showcased projections if the district's levy was 37 cents more during fiscal year 2016 than fiscal year 2012. The second proposal showed projections if the levy was 93 cents more during that same time period, while the third showcased what it would be like if the levy was $1.14 more during that span of time.
Board Member Audrey Mack said the first option may not be advisable, because the board may be going out again two or three years later asking for more money. The third proposal, she said, “brings us to where we want to be at this point.”
“I believe that [the third option] is where we need to be, but I agree with Andy that this is going to be an incredibly hard sell,” Mack said. “But I feel anything else less than that is a waste of time.”
Board Member Jeff Kopolow said even though there may be opposition to a tax levy increase, he added that “he can’t live in fear” and he can't let “the people who are going to oppose a one cent increase rule me.”
“These folks will only vote for a tax levy that reduces our tax rate to zero,” Kopolow said. “Everything else, they will vote against. Therefore, I’m not going to worry about them.”
“I’m too invested, not just as a resident of the community,” he added. “I’m too invested in the process of the education of kids. I think we all our. But I gave it my life. And I’m not going to roll over for these folks.”
Board Member Stacy Washington said “going out for a tax levy is the responsible thing to do right now.” But she said that she wasn’t sure the district needed to ask for the entire increase all at once.
“I feel that going out in a very measured way and saying ‘this is what we need to do to get to this point and then to this point,’” Washington said. “Basically laying out a plan like some of the county districts do… they know every so often they’re going to have a tax increase. It takes some of thunder out of the idea that we never plan anything and we’re always just running around [with bond issues and tax levies].”
“I feel the best thing for us to do is to go out and ask for based on what we all come to a certain point and then go back out again in another couple of years and ask again, but with full knowledge of that’s what we’re going to be doing,” she added. “The number one reason I feel that way is because of the percentages Andy spoke about during his opening statement. The problem with those types of signs and those types of statements is that once people see that, it’s just a snap decision. They make up their mind.”
The issue is expected to be discussed further in upcoming meetings of the board.
Also on Monday, the board discussed their goals for the 2011-2012 school year. You can take a look at those by clicking here.