Blended tax rate for Lindbergh Schools up by roughly 3.3 cents over last year

Debt-service rate increases as a result of Prop G

By Mike Anthony

A 2014 blended tax rate of $3.7912 per $100 of assessed valuation was approved last week by the Lindbergh Board of Education.

The board voted 5-0 Sept. 30 to establish the 2014 blended tax rate, which is a roughly 3.3-cent increase over last year’s rate. Board Treasurer Kara Gotsch and board member Vicki Englund were absent.

The blended rate is used for state calculations, but not levied, and is up due to increases in the district’s commercial and agricultural tax rates, according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Triplett.

“… The two rates that would matter most to our community would be the residential property and the personal property, and those two together are actually down by … four-tenths of 1 cent …,” Triplett told the board before it established the tax rates.

No one spoke on the proposed tax rates during a public hearing. The approved 2014 tax rates are:

• Residential — $3.6076 per $100 of assessed valuation, a decrease of nearly four-tenths of 1 cent from the current rate of $3.6115 per $100.

In a memo to the board, Triplett wrote, “Residential assessed value increased slightly this year, allowing us to decrease the residential tax rate to remain revenue-neutral. The average homeowner will pay approximately the same total amount in taxes to the school district as he/she did in 2013.”

• Commercial — $4.2197 per $100 of assessed valuation, an increase of nearly 20.2 cents from the current rate of $4.0180 per $100.

“The commercial rate increase is due to two factors — changes in overall commercial assessed value and a recoupment for St. Louis County’s prematurely reported end to the Fenton Crossing TIF (tax-increment financing) district,” Triplett wrote. “Decreases in commercial assessed values in nonreassessment years are typically due to the State Board of Equalization granting appeals of assessed values from previous years.”

• Agricultural — $5.7261 per $100 of assessed valuation, an increase of roughly $2.03 per $100 from the current rate of $3.6940. In his memo, Triplett noted the agricultural rate returns to its 2012 level.

• Personal property — $3.9096 per $100 of assessed valuation, the same as the past three years.

The district’s total 2014 assessed valuation of $1,197,768,470 is up from 2013’s total assessed valuation of $1,131,709,420.

In his memo, Triplett wrote, “The district has $2,023,700 of new residential construction, $2,101,900 of new commercial construction and $13,000 of new agriculture land this year. These new properties, along with the now-ended $5,511,480 TIF assessed value, are projected to provide $927,919 of new revenue to the district.”

That new revenue, according to Triplett, will help the district face the following challenges:

• Student growth — “Furniture, equipment, books, supplies (and) technology.”

• Full-time teachers and staff — “Keeping class sizes in check and providing other necessary services.”

• Staff hiring and retention — “Competitive starting salaries and modest raises.”

• Budget-cut restorations — “Review staff and program cuts since 2009.”

• State Legislature — “$600 million unfunded (foundation) formula; continued efforts to reduce tax rates.”

Lindbergh’s 2014 debt-service tax rate increased by 21 cents — to 68.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation from 47.3 cents per $100.

The increase is the result of Proposition G, a $34 million bond issue that voters approved in April. The 21-cent increase is the exact amount that was on the ballot, Triplett noted.

The board voted last month to approve a resolution authorizing the sale of general-obligation bonds totaling $34,035,000 to investment bank Piper Jaffray of Minneapolis, Minn., which submitted the lowest of 10 bids.

A total of $23.9 million of the bond proceeds will fund the construction of a 650-student elementary school on the nearly 10-acre Dressel School site at 10255 Musick Road.

As proposed, the new elementary school will open in August 2017. In the meantime, the district continues to face aggressive enrollment growth.

Besides the construction of a new elementary school, $3 million of the bond issue proceeds will fund some critical needs at Lindbergh High School, including doubling the size of the cafeteria, creating two science classrooms from existing classrooms, converting a record-storage room into two new classrooms, modernizing the library and replacing the wood floor and bleachers in Gymnasium 3.

The building projects will have $3 million in contingency.

In addition, proceeds from the bond issue will be used to retire roughly $3.5 million of debt incurred when the district purchased the Dressel site for $1.94 million in July 2011 and property adjacent to Long Elementary School in December 2012.

To fund the purchases, the board issued certificates of participation, or COPs, totaling nearly $3.5 million. The COPs will be retired, with the remaining debt rolled into the bond issue and paid by the debt-service fund.

The school district was spending roughly $300,000 per year in operational revenue for that debt.