Lindbergh Board of Education members wrestle with amount of possible tax hike

By SCOTT MILLER

Staff Reporter

Lindbergh Board of Education members are wrestling with how much of a tax-rate increase district voters would approve and intend to hire a communications professional to help determine the amount.

One possible selling point, board members said, is rolling back the tax rate in subsequent years if possible, which the Board of Education did after voters last approved an operational tax-rate increase in 1993.

With or without the voluntary rollback, board members said they wanted enough of an increase to avoid asking for another in five years.

At a special planning meeting Saturday, board members began chewing on the matter after a budget committee last week told them current revenues would not keep pace with expenditures and recommended the board seek a tax-rate increase — possibly in the April election.

Non-traditional funding mechanisms such as activity fees for extracurricular activities also made the committee’s recommendation list, in part, to tell the community what could happen if a tax increase isn’t passed. New revenues must come from somewhere to avoid academic cuts, committee members said, and reserve funds should be kept for emergency purposes, not general operations.

“The overriding theme was, if we’re going to go out and ask the community for something, we need to look deep within ourselves and ask what are we willing to do to create or make cuts,” said Dr. Randy Tobler, a member of the budget committee. “This puts everything out for the board to review.”

Board member Katie Wesselschmidt said, “I think it is on our side that Affton passed a very large tax increase just recently. Parkway passed an increase recently. So I think people are getting the message that, yes, you want your schools to continue to improve. I would hope that our community would be supportive, but I think it is true that we have to be ready and tell our community, ‘Well, if you don’t want this (tax rate) level, this is what you’re going to get.”

Assistant Superintendent for Finance Pat Lanane said Saturday he will begin soliciting bids from communication professionals to prepare a district survey asking voters several questions pertaining to district revenues and expenditures, zoning on their priorities and finding out how much of an increase they may support.

For example, the increase depends on the district’s commitment to improving technology, offering competitive salaries, maintaining a large reserve fund, among several other expenditure dilemmas facing the school district based on its current revenue projections. With the survey, the board may weigh community priorities on those issues when deciding where to cut expenditures or where to expand expenditures and how much of a tax increase may be needed and supported.

When an amount is determined, Lanane said the district may hire a communications group to spread the facts on why an increase is needed.

“At the end of the day, we have to send the message, ‘We’re doing everything we can whether it’s lunch prices, parking prices. We’re doing what we can here within our own community values to do what we feel is appropriate to maximize our revenue,” Lanane said.

No matter what amount tax increase makes the April ballot, board President Mark Rudoff, Vice President Barry Cooper and Wesselschmidt will place their names right next to it. The three announced Satur-day they will seek re-election on April 5. All three currently are serving their second three-year terms. Candidate filing for the positions begins Dec. 14.