September 11, 2003

State Funding Cuts Force School Board To Raise Local Tax Levy

After losing nearly a quarter of a million dollars in state funding the Scotland County R-I School Board had little choice but to pass on some of the financial stress to local tax payers.

The board of education voted 6-0 to establish the 2003-04 fiscal year tax rate at $3.36 per $100 of assessed valuation. The move represented an increase of 20 cents from the $3.16 levy rate last year.

“This year promises to be the most challenging that many schools in Missouri have faced in more than 70 years,” said SCR-I Superintendent LeRoy Huff. “I believe it is not an exaggeration to say that Missouri public education in general is confronted with the worst financial crisis schools have encountered since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

The move means that the average taxpayer that owns $50,000 in assessed valued property will pay an additional $100 in school taxes. Local property owners are being called upon to help offset the state financial shortcomings for educational funding.

Huff stated that local residents should be aware that the state foundation formula has not treated all schools equally, noting that some of the state’s richest districts lost virtually no state funding and thus have no need to ask local tax payers to pay more.

“Many of Missouri’s most affluent communities will be exempt from the educational withholding while on the other hand the less prosperous districts will encounter stringent educational cuts,” Huff said. “In my mind this is a situation that screams for correction.”

Huff highlighted the equity issue comparing SCR-I with the Ladue school district. Despite having an assessed valuation of more than $1.1 billion dollars as compared to SCR-I’s tax base of only $37.9 million the Ladue district only lost $67,000 in state funding, or roughly 25 percent of the $247,784 cuts handed down by the state to SCR-I. Under the existing state funding formula Ladue is allowed to spend nearly twice as much per student as SCR-I. Despite have more than 30 times as much local funding to draw upon, Ladue still does not see its state funding reduced by a quarter as much as the rural northeast Missouri district did.

“Something is very much wrong with this picture,” Huff said. “I hope you are as disappointed as I am in the fact that we have a national policy that states ‘No Child Shall be Left Behind’ but in reality how can we in good conscience conclude that this policy is in fact a reality with these kind of spending disparages occurring in our state.”

The superintendent encourage local tax payers to contact State representative Brian Munzliner, State Senator John Cauthorn and Governor Bob Holden to encourage them to address the equity issue.

“We must find a way to address the issue of equity in education if we are sincere in our concern to educate all children equally,” Huff said. “Otherwise, we will have a two-tiered public education system – one tier for those with resources and another for districts who are economically stressed.”

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