Affton School District looking for voters to go ‘All IN’

School district officials say Prop I, Prop N are needed


Affton Superintendent Steve Brotherton appeared in the recent Affton Community Days parade as the Affton Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year, in a convertible driven by his wife, Mary. Bands and dance teams from Affton and Bayless high schools also appeared in the parade, which was led by Grand Marshal Phyllis Smith, a Lemay native who starred in ‘The Office’ and ‘Inside Out.’

By Gloria Lloyd

After several years of declining revenue and deficit budgets, the Affton School District is asking residents to go “All IN for Affton” on two ballot measures in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election.

Combined, Proposition I, a 38-cent operational tax-rate increase, and Proposition N, a $25 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase, would raise Affton’s tax rates by 87 cents.

The measures are necessary, school officials say, since enrollment in the district is growing while assessed valuation has fallen by $30 million since 2010.

“So that leaves us with more kids and less money,” Superintendent Steve Brotherton told the Call.

So far, the district has managed to improve academics while cutting reading coaches and support staff to the tune of $2 million in its $30 million budget over the last three years, but any further cuts will impact the classroom, the superintendent said.

Residents with questions about I+N can attend three open houses during the month of October: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at Gotsch Intermediate School; 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Affton Early Childhood; and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24 at Affton High School.

The last tax-rate increase in the district came 12 years ago, but before that, the district historically had a tough time passing ballot measures. While officials believed at the time of the 2004 tax-rate hike that the district could make it eight years without an increase, Affton has stretched its money for longer, Brotherton said.

The district has already cut $2 million out of the budget since 2014, with cuts to administrative staff, supplies, equipment and instructional support for the classroom. In the last five years, the district has earned national recognition for its academics, but that progress will slide if further cuts impact the classroom, the district says.

The annual cost of I+N to an owner of a $100,000 house would be $165.30, or $330.60 for the owner of a $200,000 house.

If the measures do not pass, future cuts of $500,000 in 2017-2018 and $1 million in 2018-2019 will slash teaching, support staff and administrative positions, bus transportation under three miles, student programs, math and reading assistance and maintenance and improvements to buildings, district officials said.

Prop N, the $25 million bond issue, would pay for safety and security upgrades, classroom renovations and a new gym and cafeteria, while also paying off existing certificates of participation that the district spends $1.5 million in operational funds on every year, Brotherton said. That would free up money in the annual budget.

Overall, assessed valuation in Affton has gone down $30 million since 2010, Brotherton said, at the same time enrollment is increasing.

Since the district is a hold-harmless district that’s 85 percent locally funded, that has a direct impact on its ability to operate, he said.

In the last three years, the district has cut the budget and improved academics at the same time, said Brotherton, who is in his sixth year leading the district. Before that, he was an assistant superintendent at Bayless and a teacher, assistant principal and principal in Mehlville, including serving as the principal of Rogers Elementary in Oakville.

Brotherton has lived in Affton for 23 years and has two children who are graduates of the district. He is the president elect of the Affton Chamber of Commerce.

Despite the budget cuts, the district is committed to strategic planning and constant improvement, Brotherton said.

“Where do we put our resources to get the best bang for the buck?” he said. “And that doesn’t mean automatically push repeat and do the same thing. So while we’ve cut money, we’ve managed to maintain a lot of good programs. The thing that we’ve cut is our salaries. Salary and benefits are most of what we spend — we’ve cut a lot of support positions, we’ve cut Central Office positions, we tried to make cuts as far away from the classroom as possible …

“I feel like our community understands that we are working on a tight budget, that we’re trying to promote innovation, that we’re trying to put our money in the right places, and that we are trying to be fiscally responsible.”