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Election Focus: Propositions/Questions on the ballot

Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 12:14 pm

election-buttonVan-Far voters to decide on Prop. A

—The following article includes information previously reported in past articles on what has become Proposition A for the Van-Far R-I School District.
Voters living in the Van-Far R-I School District are being asked to pass a $2.161 million no-tax bond issue in next week’s election.
If passed, it will be the district’s fourth no tax bond increase since 2006.
The official ballot language reads: “Shall the Board of Education of the Van-Far R-I School District, Missouri, borrow money in the amount of Two Million One Hundred Sixty-One Thousand Dollars ($2,161,000), resulting in no estimated increase to the debt service property tax levy, for the purpose of providing funds to complete facility improvements including addition of an Early Childhood facility, upgrades and elimination of current pod classrooms, parking lot repairs and replacement, classroom and exterior door upgrades, and other remodeling and repair improvements to the existing facilities of the District; and issue bonds for the payment thereof? If this proposition is approved, the adjusted debt service levy of the School District is estimated to remain unchanged at $0.6099 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property.”
The process of putting a no-tax bond issue on the ballot started last Fall with a survey.
The results included an emphasis on early childhood education, parking, and the elementary pods.
“The focus of the feedback is these were all good things and relevant things,” Superintendent Dr. Hunter noted in a January board meeting.
Dr. Hunter then reviewed Study 1 and Study 2 as discussed in a work session held afterwards with Porter, Berendzen & Associates Architecture.
He noted proposal revisions, bonding capacity, off-set funding, and a no-tax increase bond amount.
Study 1 had a price tag of $1.6 million, Study 2 had a price tag of $1.8 million and Study 2 with alternates offered a $2.161 million bond.
The board passed a resolution for a bond issue in the amount of $2.161 million, which was the price tag on the Study 2 with alternates.
The measure would allow the district to do the following:
High School – Replace 23 classroom doors at $1,200 per door, new asphalt on main south parking lot, new concrete parking that is in the proximity of the school marquis (as it just expands the lot a bit), and a new gravel parking strip behind the school near where the Junior High football team practices.
Elementary School – A new 3,200 square foot addition to be built on the front part of the building for early childhood education to get the kids out of the trailers and into one building. It also will involve remodeling the South Pods and remodeling of boys and girls public restrooms. The existing exterior storefront in the area of the North Pods will be replaced. Kindergarten classrooms will also be divided with new partitions and doors into classrooms.
Existing Parking Lots-Compete replacement of approximately 23,2000 square foot of asphalt. Some asphalt will be replaced with new concrete to handle busses. A new 6’ wide addition to the drive lane with new concrete along with added gravel nose-in parking on the south side of the elementary school.
The total with alternates is $1.975 million plus 6-7% design fees and 4-5% contingency.
Some area residents opposed to the no-tax bond issue say they are concerned about the district taking on more debt given the debt from past no-tax bond issues as well as the uncertainty of state/federal provided education funding.
A breakdown provided by district auditors L.J. Hart & Company shows the district is ahead of schedule for paying down its previously passed long-term bonds.
Sometime next year, the district will have paid off its 20-year, 2006 general obligation bond after just nine years.
Auditors noted that there is $100,000 in remaining principal for the 2006 bond, which will mature in March 2016, after $75,000 matures on March 1, 2015.
The Series 2009 bonds refinanced a portion of the Series 2006 bonds, saving taxpayers $371,349 of interest expense to shorten the final repayment period by six years. So the remaining principal for the 2009 bond shows $420,000.
The 2012 general obligation bonds show $1.4 million maturing from March 1, 2020-March 1, 2027.
Auditors noted that $295,000 of prepayments have been made on the 2009 bonds, which saved taxpayers $58,625 of interest expense to shorten a repayment plan by two years from the original 15. This is eight years shorter for repayment than what it took for the 2006 bonds.
In combining the two large chunks of interest savings, the total interest savings to the taxpayers in the district is $429,974 since 2009.
So what does all of this mean? Basically, the district has a $42,150,011 assessed valuation and a railroad/utility valuation of $1,955.267. This means the district has a total bonding capacity of $4,982,796.
Even in adding the $1,920,000 left in remaining principal for the previously passed bonds, the new $2.161 million bond issue, if passed, keeps the district still $2,821,796 under the bonding capacity.
This amount is significantly below the 15% limitation.

Wellsville/Middletown voters asked to increase tax levy

Some voters living within the Wellsville-Middletown R-I School District are being asked to authorize an increase to its operating tax levy.
The official ballot language reads “shall the School Board of the Wellsville-Middletown R-I School District of Montgomery County, Missouri, be authorized to increase the operating tax levy for the purpose of technology, building improvements, instructional material and staff compensation by $.6513 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation. If this proposition is approved by the voters, the adjusted operating levy of the Wellsville-Middletown R-I School District is estimated to be Four Dollars($4.0007) per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation.”
The change would mean, for example, a residence with a market value of $50,000, taxes would be raised by $62.16 per year or $5.18 per month.
Superintendent Pete Nasir said the district has not had a levy increase since April 1993.
Nasir said a number of factors play into this issue reaching the ballot.
They include a lack of full funding from the state, a stagnant tax base, rising costs for all goods and services, declining enrollment, etc. Meanwhile, the school’s revenues have reportedly not been able to keep up with expenditures.
Superintendent Nasir said the district has made extra effort to reduce expenses. The certified teaching staff has decreased from 48 to 37 (22%).
It has also eliminated assistant coaching positions, eliminated and/or reduced some programs like foreign language, fine arts, and Ag.
The purchase of school busses, with the newest being 2011, have been postponed along with technology purchases and upgrades.
Like Community R-VI, the Wellsville-Middletown district is going to a four-day school week next year to reduce further costs.
Superintendent Nasir said the starting base salary for a new first year teacher is the lowest among 21 surrounding school districts. The current school tax levy is the 28th lowest of 33 surrounding districts.

Voters in three towns set to approve/not approve change

Several area voters will be asked in the April 7 election to authorize their cities to “forgo annual elections if the number of candidates who have filed for a particular office is equal to the number of positions in the office to be filled by the election.”
Residents of Martinsburg, Farber, and Rush Hill will vote on the issue next week.
A “Yes” vote would allow the towns to forgo elections when the number of candidates and positions available for election are the same.
This is a similar approach that both the Van-Far R-I and Community R-VI School Districts take with their school board elections.
If, for example, there are two board seats up for election and only two candidates, the districts do not hold an election as the two candidates who put their name on the ballot would be accepted to fill the role available.
A change in the state law in 2014 allows cities, towns, or villages with populations of 1,000 or fewer people to pass such an ordinance with voter approval. Passage of this measure would keep the decision for six years until the measure would head back to the ballot for approval.
One reason for taking this step is to allow these towns/cities to save costs on the election.
The move, however, does eliminate write-in candidates.
The measure would also require election authorities to publish a notice with candidate names who would then be assuming the office once it is established that no action would be held.