First mention of possible tax-rate hike slips into meeting of Mehlville panel

By SCOTT MILLER

Staff Reporter

The first mention of a possible tax-rate increase slipped into a Mehlville School District Long-Range Planning Committee meeting last week as the group finalized a list of strategic goals for four action teams to consider in coming months.

The school district will recruit action team members in late November to identify specific solutions for the goals outlined by the planning committee. The four ac-tion teams will focus on finance, technology, academics and facilities. Participation is open to the public.

Two open meetings are scheduled to discuss the committee’s goals and recruit action team members — 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, at Mehlville Senior High School, 3200 Lemay Ferry Road, and 7 p.m. Thurs-day, Dec. 2 at Oakville Senior High School, 5557 Milburn Road.

The committee wants “state-of-the-art facilities” and “a comprehensive counseling program that meets the immediate postsecondary needs of all students,” among other strategic goals committee members approved last week that may need financial support.

Particularly, an auditorium for plays and other cultural arts programs or some other type of multipurpose facility has grabbed the committee’s interest, but would be ex-pensive. The committee suggested seeking a tax-rate increase to pay for it.

“When it’s all said and done, when you have the great concerts, mail me a ticket,” committee member Jill Magoc said. “If we’re talking advertising and getting me as the taxpayer to vote for you, you trade four free passes for my family and I gave you how much money in tax dollars. It would be a good trade.”

Committee member Ken Leach said, “If we want to get over the hump of a tax increase, then we need to step up and do some things like that, that would really help and go a long way to get those votes.”

The district would need a strong public relations campaign to get voters on board for any tax-rate increase, committee member Debbie Yost said.

Mehlville voters last approved a a tax-rate increase four years ago. District voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase. A $88,927,440 revised Proposition P budget approved Nov. 3 represents a roughly 30 percent in-crease — more than $20.5 million — over the $68.4 million building improvement program envisioned in 2000.

Voters haven’t approved an increase to fund operational expenses since 1986 though in April 1998 they approved Proposition T, the elimination of the Prop-osition C sales tax rollback, increasing the district’s tax rate by 33 cents.

The rate was increased by 62 cents in 1986 with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Voters rejected an 89-cent increase earlier that year but later approved it when a 27-cent debt-service levy was eliminated from the increase.

Mehlville’s current tax rate is $3.95, sixth lowest of 23 St. Louis County public school districts.

Among the other committee-approved strategic goals the action teams will ponder are:

• “We will provide state of the art facilities.”

• “We will develop a multifaceted program that aggressively pursues both traditional and innovative funding opportunities.”

• “We will optimize communication channels between students, faculty and community.”

• “We will provide a comprehensive counseling program that meets the immediate postsecondary needs of all students.”

• “We will ensure the learning environment will be safe, nurturing and caring.”

• “We will continually develop and implement a curriculum that is adaptive and meets the individual needs of all students.”

• “We will implement early interventions to ensure that all students perform at or above grade level.”

• “We will develop awareness and understanding of students with varying abilities.”

• “We will establish a united school and community.”

Once recruited, the four action teams will consider solutions for each strategy and report back to the planning committee. The planning committee will consider the solutions and make recommendations to the Board of Education in March or April.

Any community member interested in serving on an action team can contact South Area Superintendent Keith Klus-meyer at (314) 467-5007.