December 27, 2001

SCR-I School Board Votes To Place Prop C Waiver On April 2nd Ballot

The April 2nd election ballot grew by one issue on December 21 when the Scotland County R-I School Board voted 7-0 to take a Proposition C Waiver issue to the voters.

"The board has studied, at length and with great interest, the recommendation made by the district's strategic planning committee in September to ask the voters for approval of a Prop C waiver and it was their consensus that this was a necessity for our school," stated Superintendent LeRoy Huff.

Huff added that the board greatly appreciated having the documented work of the committee to back up their decision to seek the waiver.

The waiver, if passed by the voters, would allow the School Board control of the annual Prop C rollback payment, which mandates a decrease in the local school district tax levy.

The strategic planning committee consisted of more than two dozen area business owners, parents, government officials and people from all walks of life. The group is an annual project that allows district patrons to have input on future projects for the district. Typically the committee prioritizes capital improvements and other major expenditures for the schools, but this year, solving the growing financial situation took top priority.

"The major concern of the strategic planning committee was how to continue to operate a school of exceptional quality during a period of steep declining enrollment at the local level," said committee chairman Fred Clapp. "At the same time revenue received by the district from the state will be at a significantly lower level than currently exists because of a state budget shortfall which has little chance for improvement in the foreseeable future.

Proposition C was a statewide education sales tax ballot issue that was passed in 1982.

"Part of the legislation called for school districts to refund half of the total collected from the one-cent sales tax, to the local voters in the form of a "Prop C Rollback"," stated Dale Carlson of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education finance department.

Each year the Prop C sales tax is collected by the state and then allotted equally to each school based on the district's eligible student count. Carlson indicated that last year each school district in the state received roughly $750 per student in Prop C money. For SCR-I that meant approximately $548,700.

But under the complicated formula for the Prop C rollback, the district had to "refund" half that money to local taxpayers. This is done by reducing the tax levy paid on property taxes to the school district.

The district has a $3.69 tax levy ceiling. After calculating the Prop C rollback, the tax levy was adjusted to just under $3.01, meaning the Prop C rollback accounted for $0.68 per $100 of assessed valuation.

Due to declining state financial aid across Missouri and a declining student enrollment on the local level, the SCR-I school board will ask voters to give the district the power to eliminate the mandatory rollback. This would allow the board to set the district's tax levy at an appropriate level to fund the district's school system.

"What the waiver is in essence is the taxpayers telling the board of education that it may keep some of that sales tax refund money," Carlson said.

Board members stressed that the waiver does not mean there would be no "rollback" and that the maximum levy rate would automatically be charged each year. The waiver would simply allow the board to make the appropriate adjustments to the levy rate to insure adequate funding for the district which has struggled to maintain a balanced budget the past two years in the face of ever shrinking revenues.

"It boils down to if you as a voter trust your school board to use good judgment to set the most appropriate tax rate, and in most instances that is the case so the Prop C waiver is a good idea," Carlson said. "It is a tough time right now financially for most school districts because of the state budget issues so the Prop C waiver gives a district some revenue flexibility."

According to Carlson roughly 420 school districts in the state have already passed Prop C waivers with just around 100 still governed by the rollback demands.

The strategic planning committee was of the consensus that the district needs to move into the majority of schools that have the Prop C waiver to secure adequate funding for the district in the future.

"The committee felt that the acceptance by the patrons of the district for a Proposition C Waiver was the most logical and effective way to insure that Scotland County R-I schools retain the reputation they have had for years as a school of excellence," Clapp stated.

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