EDITORIAL: Mehlville’s Proposition R a reasonable tax-rate hike

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony: Passage of Prop R essential to district, entire community

By Mike Anthony

The Mehlville School District’s Proposition R 49-cent tax-rate increase can be summed up in one word — reasonable.

District voters will decide the fate of Prop R — for Restore — when they go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 3.

We emphatically urge voters to approve Prop R, a measure that will allow district officials to begin implementing Mehlville’s new strategic plan by hiring 16 reading and instructional coaches for struggling students and buying textbooks. Funds also would be used to restore some of the $3 million in budget cuts that went into effect this year, including tutoring, student clubs and library books.

If Prop R is approved, Mehlville’s tax rate will remain the second lowest in St. Louis County. If Prop R passes, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay an extra $11.64 per month in property taxes — a total of nearly $140 more per year.

It’s interesting how Prop R opponents are willing to throw anyone under the bus to further their cause — even their own. Opponents cite the construction of the auditorium and the tennis courts as examples of wasteful spending, yet conveniently omit the fact that the votes to approve both projects were unanimous and included conservative former board members Rich Franz and Mark Stoner.

Opponents also forget to mention that both projects were funded by refunding certificates of participation originally issued as part of Proposition P, which was approved by voters in November 2000.

Proceeds from the refunding could only be used for one-time capital expenses, not ongoing operational costs such as teachers or technology.

Prop R opponents also contend no correlation exists between property values and high-performing school districts. Such hogwash clearly shows their shortsightedness.

All they have to do is look at neighboring Lindbergh Schools, which is one of the hottest housing markets in the nation, primarily due to Lindbergh’s outstanding academic achievement.

Prop R opponents question the leadership ability of the board and administrators. Have past Mehlville boards made some poor decisions?

Of course they have. But it’s time to look to the future, not the past.

Chris Gaines became Mehlville’s superintendent on July 1. The defeat of Prop R would severely limit his ability to lead the district to success, as $3 million to $5 million in cuts would have to be made for the coming school year — and that’s on top of the $3 million that was cut this year.

As for accountability, Dr. Gaines said if Prop R passes he will recommend that the district’s Finance Committee — a volunteer panel of financial professionals — directly oversee how the revenue is spent and ensure the funds are spent the way district officials have promised.

Quite frankly, we believe Prop R’s most vocal opponents are not willing to give Mehlville one more penny, no matter how dire the need. And Mehlville’s financial situation is dire.

The failure of Prop R will result in an exodus of families with young children, devastating the community.

The failure of Prop R also will accelerate the departure of experienced Mehlville teachers to districts that offer better pay and value their experience more.

We believe approval of Prop R is essential to ensure that the school district remains strong and the entire Mehlville community remains vibrant.

Once again, we emphatically urge Mehlville voters to approve Prop R next Tuesday.