Mehlville board slates tax hearing for Thursday

As proposed, residential rate would increase by 13.2 cents

By Gloria Lloyd

The Mehlville School District’s final assessed valuation decreased by nearly $41 million, or 2.4 percent, from preliminary values released earlier this year, which will nearly double the deficit in the district’s budget for the current school year.

The Mehlville Board of Education will conduct a public hearing on the district’s proposed 2013 tax rates at 6 p.m. Thursday — Sept. 26 — in the boardroom of the Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

“We had a pretty drastic difference between what the auditor sent us back in April, which is what we built the budget based on, and these numbers,” Superintendent Eric Knost told the Call.

The district’s final assessed valuation of $1,654,000,000 declined by 3.3 percent compared to last year, according to information provided to the board by Chief Financial Officer Marshall Crutcher.

In June, the board adopted a 2013-2014 budget for the current school year that is based on a full “roll-up” of the residential tax rate, which was projected to increase by 11.5 cents. Due to the decrease in the district’s assessed valuation, Mehlville would collect the same amount of revenue it received last year under a full roll-up.

However, because of the further drop in assessed valuation, the proposed residential tax rate now would increase by nearly 13.2 cents — to $3.7810 per $100 from $3.6494.

As proposed, the district’s blended tax rate, which is not levied but used for state calculations, would increase by 9.29 cents, or 2.5 percent — to $3.7810 per $100 from $3.6881.

The district’s commercial assessed valuation initially increased by roughly 7 percent. As a result, the commercial tax rate was projected to decrease by 25.38 cents. With the finalized assessed valuation, however, the commercial tax rate is projected to increase by roughly 2.1 cents.

The district’s agricultural and personal property tax rates essentially are unchanged.

The blended tax rate projected for the full roll-up was $3.7179 when the board approved the budget. Proposed tax rates published in a legal notice in the Call were based on the county assessor’s July numbers, which have been replaced by official numbers finalized before the hearing.

The approved $105 million budget included a $660,000 deficit, which has increased to $1.23 million with the decrease in the district’s assessed valuation.

Board members voted 4-3 to approve the budget based on the full roll-up, with members Kathleen Eardley, Elaine Powers, Ron Fedorchak and Larry Felton voting in favor. Board President Mark Stoner, Vice President Lori Trakas and Secretary Rich Franz were opposed.

Since that meeting, the district has accepted students from the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District after a June Missouri Supreme Court ruling that mandated that students who live in unaccredited school districts could choose to attend other school districts in the same or adjoining counties at the expense of their home school district.

Riverview Gardens owes Mehlville roughly $1.5 million this year for its 215 students who are attending Mehlville, but the first monthly installment — for August — will not be received until October.

Since Riverview Gardens made the decision to transfer students to Mehlville after the budget was approved, budget projections provided in advance of today’s meeting do not include any anticipated revenue from Riverview Gardens.

“Just to be safe, I’m not banking on that money in the budget, so to speak,” Knost said. “It’s still a little early and, I think, a little dangerous to incorporate that money into our revenue and count on it and make significant decisions based upon it — especially decisions that last the whole year, like staffing.”

The state of Missouri has promised to come through with the payments if Riverview Gardens does not, Knost noted.

At the June meeting, Stoner and Trakas voted for a budget plan without a full roll-up that would return $200,000 to taxpayers, making up the difference in the budget by taking the same amount for this school year out of the board’s reserves.

After several years of building up the district’s reserves, the district has more in reserves than is called for in board policy, Stoner said. The district has reserves totaling more than 22 percent, while board policy calls for a reserve of 13 percent to 18 percent.

Before the budget votes, Franz suggested a budget that rolled back the current tax rate by 2 percent, which would mean the district would collect $1 million less than its current tax revenues. Franz’s motion for that budget died for lack of a second.