Committee to begin work on promoting Proposition L

Seniors have much at stake with Proposition L, CFO says.

By MIKE ANTHONY

“Keeping Lindbergh Lindbergh” will be one of the themes of the advocacy campaign promoting a 65-cent tax-rate increase Lindbergh Schools voters will consider Nov. 2, according to Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane.

The Board of Education voted unanimously last week to approve the ballot language for the 65-cent tax-rate increase, which is being called Proposition L. Board members voted in June to place the tax-rate increase on the ballot.

During the first Steering Committee meeting of the Yes for Prop L Committee, which took place after school hours on Aug. 12, Lanane said a primary message of the advocacy campaign will involve “keeping Lindbergh Lind-bergh. What has made Lindbergh a great community?

“Well, it’s what I call the Lindbergh prom-ise. You can come to Lindbergh. You can move to Lindbergh. You can raise a family here. You can fully expect that while you’re raising that family, they’re going to have a first-class, good-to-great education. And that good-to-great education is going to get them into good-to-great colleges and they’re going to do well in those good-to-great colleges. And when they get out of those colleges, maybe come back to this community and get a good-to-great job. That’s the Lind-bergh promise and that’s what is at stake.

“I don’t know if we’re not able to continue the program that we have that that promise will stay in place. So people with families, people who are thinking about having families, that’s a very direct message to them. Do you want Lindbergh to stay Lindbergh?”

The board’s decision to place the tax-rate increase before voters comes after making $4.7 million in cuts for the 2010-2011 school year and roughly $2 million in cuts for the 2009-2010 school year. For the current school year, which began Tuesday, 60 positions were eliminated, including 45 teaching positions. But even with the $4.7 million in reductions, the school district still faces a nearly $4 million budget shortfall.

The Prop L ballot language states, “Shall the school board of Lindbergh Schools be authorized to increase the operating tax levy for operating purposes by 65 cents per $100 of assessed valuation? If this proposition is approved, the adjusted operating levy of the school district is estimated to be $3.40 per $100 of assessed valuation.”

If approved by voters, Lindbergh’s operational tax rate would increase to $3.40 per $100 of assessed valuation from the current rate of $2.75. The district’s total tax rate would increase to $3.81 per $100 from the current rate of $3.16. But district officials have said that even with the increase, Lindbergh’s tax rate still would remain among the lowest in St. Louis County.

If approved, the tax-rate increase would generate more than $8.3 million beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.

Addressing the dozen or so Steering Committee members, Lanane said, “… We’ve shared with you that the information campaign is in full swing, letting the public know, letting our employees know just what the problem is and why we picked this time to ask for Prop L. And so that part is going well …”

Information about the district’s financial condition and Proposition L will be presented to district employees, he said.

“… We haven’t had an operational tax increase since 1993. There are many, many employees of this school district who have never been here when there was an operational tax election. So they need to understand that. We will be clarifying with them — I have the legalities of what employees can do, when they can do it and what’s proper. What’s not proper. I have all the rules for this committee …,” Lanane said.

“We don’t want people crossing those lines. We want to run a very upfront campaign on both sides of the issue, the information as a well as the advocacy, and be sure the people understand what is at stake … When I look at this Prop L campaign, that is the job of the advocacy committee, what is at stake here. And it goes beyond: Oh, there may be some additional reductions — maybe there would be, the informational campaign will make that quite clear. We will have to have additional reductions in the school district to the tune of as much as $5 million if we don’t get help,” he continued.

“We see no other help coming and so the advocacy group’s job then will be to translate that even in more plain terms, more direct terms. What does this mean to you? And that’s really the point of any advocacy campaign … We have all the different groups in the school district that any school district has. They all have different goals and different targets and different expectations, and so allowing them to understand what this means to them is really the right thing to do. We wouldn’t want this to happen without them fully knowing what’s at stake.”

For example, the district’s senior citizens have a lot at stake with Prop L, the chief financial officer said.

“To the senior citizens, there’s several messages that we’re going to be working on with them,” Lanane said. “One of the messages is your greatest asset that you’ve accumulated through your life is your house and in any large part — at least a significant part — the reason that that value went from $7,000 50 years ago to $270,000 now is because Lindbergh Schools has been a draw for families. People want to live here. It’s one of the reasons. It’s not the only reason. But it’s one of the reasons. That is at stake.

“Housing values have dropped the last two years. It’s the problem we have. We have a rather large number of older homes in this community. Keeping the value on an older house is always a challenge. One of things that’s helped prop up that value has been the quality of the school district, and the fact that when I’m ready to cash in this asset I have, it’s going to come back many times to me and my original investment … If the school district declines, there’s every reason to believe that asset will also decline.”

Another important consideration “is what kind of community do you want to spend those senior years in?” Lanane said. “Do you want one where you’re a little worried about the fact it’s (deteriorating) — the quality is not as good as it used to be? The services aren’t as good as they used to be? Even the safety isn’t maybe quite as good as it used to be? And there are places in St. Louis County that I could take you and you would’ve 30 years ago said: Well, that’s a wonderful, safe neighborhood I’m willing to live in and if you go to those neighborhoods now, you’d say: I’m not willing to live there.

“It’s really as simple as that and they need to be aware that’s at stake, that’s at play with this election …”