Lindbergh takes tentative step toward no-tax-hike bond issue


Lindbergh Board of Education members last week tentatively agreed to begin the pro-cess toward seeking a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue to address the district’s capital needs.

Four board members — President Mark Rudoff, Secretary Vic Lenz, Treasurer Katie Wesselschmidt and Barry Cooper — took no formal action during the July 27 budget workshop, but indicated that administrators should take initial steps to move forward with a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue.

Vice President Kenneth Fey, Robert Bader and Bob Foerstel were absent.

Meanwhile, the possibility of placing an operational tax-rate increase before voters is off the table for now as district officials focus on capital needs.

If board members eventually decide to pursue a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue, voters could consider the proposal in April or November of next year. At this point, neither the amount of funding available nor the scope of work have been determined.

If board members ultimately decide to pursue a no-tax-rate increase bond issue, the district’s debt-service tax rate would remain unchanged, but would be extended for an as-yet undetermined period of time if approved by voters. A four-sevenths majority would be required for approval.

The district’s current debt service tax rate is 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation and Pat Lanane, assistant superintendent for finance, said he expects that rate to remain unchanged for the 2005-2006 school year.

However, he said voters can expect a five-cent tax-rate increase in the district’s operational tax rate to $2.75 per $100 of assessed valuation from the current rate of $2.70.

Voters in April defeated the district’s Proposition A, which would have increased the operational property tax rate by 65 cents per $100. The tax-rate increase would have been phased in over a five-year period.

Though administrators have been discussing the need for possibly placing an operational tax-rate before voters, Lanane said last week that’s not being considered now.

Instead, district officials are contemplating pursuing a public engagement process before proceeding with an operational tax-rate increase proposal, he said.

“I believe that while there’s so many things uncertain going into this next year as we’ve talked about before: We don’t know the VICC (Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp.) lawsuit will — what will happen to that. There’s even possibly some changes in the funding formula that will happen that could help us a little bit or hurt us even a little bit more. So there’s a lot of things out there we just don’t know about,” he told board members.

“We do know that the state assumes a tax rate a lot higher than the one we have. They assume $3.43 (per $100 of assessed valuation) … But our subcommittee of the board has just begun to meet. We think that there’s going to be at least a need for a very thorough and complete public engagement process and until we have this process and we hear what we need to hear, I don’t think the administration — I don’t think I’ll be in a position to be able to make a good recommendation to you. So that’s why we have decided tonight to not talk about that because we have talked a great deal about it in the past,” Lanane said.

“So what we would like to focus on, though, is that other side of the equation, the other side of the financing in a school district. All the things that are not educational or day-to-day operations. All those bricks-and-mortar, capital-improvement projects. The need for ongoing major renovations in times in a district whose buildings are now, many of them, well over 50 years old. So that need continues,” he said.

One area of capital improvements district officials have been reviewing is roofs, Lanane said, noting a roof consultant has been hired by the board and is working with Director of Facilities Karl Guyer.

Lanane said, “… We’re at that end of the cycle in our roofs where we’re already seeing pretty much on a monthly basis professionals coming out to fix our roofs where we have leaks. And so that’s the signal that the time is very near on some of these, and it’s time to make plans.

“There are other needs in addition to roofs. I mention that one because that’s what we’ve already identified. Within the process of what we want to do, we want to also fully identify what else is out there …,” he said, noting Guyer tentatively has identified some capital needs. “It will be a matter of sorting through those and making sure we get the critical bread-and-butter, bricks-and-mortar issues that just have to be done. I can tell for the most part, there’s not going to be much that I would call fancy in the package. It’s going to be we have to have this stuff to continue to have school.

“I am a little worried as we look at these roofs because while we have leaks, we don’t have what I’d call a roof failure, which means you didn’t get to have school today in that room. That’s a roof failure. We haven’t quite got there, but our prognosis at this point is we are within a year or two away from that,” he added.

Lanane noted that if the board decided to pursue a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue and it was approved by voters, work most likely would not be done until the summer of 2007 and/or the summer of 2008.

Superintendent Jim Sandfort said, “Pat, what you’re really saying is that there would be no — regardless of what work went on — there would be no need for a board decision any earlier than January as to whether to push ahead.”

Lanane agreed, noting the deadline to place a proposition on the April ballot would be Jan. 24.

Lindbergh voters in April 2000 approved a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue, the Proposition R “Responsible Ren-ovation” measure.

The $9.5 million bond issue addressed projects that were not included in the district’s 1995 $25 million bond issue, also called Proposition R. The focus of the 1995 bond issue was the classroom. Though some critical facility and mechanical needs were addressed by the first Proposition R, the no-tax-rate-increase bond issue on the 2000 ballot targeted the support system beyond the classroom.

Approval of the 2000 bond issue extended the district’s debt-service tax rate — 26 cents per $100 of assessed valuation at the time — from 2016 to 2020.