Mehlville committee plans ‘blitz’ to push Prop T

Group’s canvassing efforts to kick off Saturday, Oct. 18

By MIKE ANTHONY

The head of a citizens’ committee promoting the Mehlville School District’s Proposition T says “a blitz” is planned later this month to inform voters why passage of the ballot measure is critical for the school district and the community.

Jeff Clobes, a father of three children who attend Mehlville schools, is serving as chairman of Together for T, a citizens’ committee that is promoting the passage of Proposition T.

Mehlville voters will consider Proposition T in the Nov. 4 election. If approved, Proposition T would transfer roughly 31 cents per $100 of assessed valuation from the district’s debt-service fund to the operating fund. The measure would generate roughly $5.6 million annually for the operating fund.

Proposition T would not increase Mehlville’s overall tax rate, but would extend the district’s bonded indebtedness by 15 years — to 2029.

The transfer was recommended to the Board of Education by the Facilitating Team of the district’s public-engagement program COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools.

Clobes, a longtime district volunteer, had served as co-chair of the district’s Facilities Planning Team, which formulated a long-range facilities master plan as part of COMPASS. Superintendent Terry Noble later asked Clobes to serve as chairman of the campaign committee for Proposition T.

“One of the reasons I decided to chair this campaign was I believe in the integrity of Superintendent Noble and unlike past administrators at the district, his intentions are very real,” Clobes said. “He comes from a small, rural town in Missouri and he knows kind of what it takes, and that’s one of the main reasons that I decided to help with this campaign … I do believe he wants the district to truly succeed. That’s his legacy because he’s done this before. He could probably walk away into the sunset and never have to worry about working again, but he’s committed to making this district succeed and I want to help him get there.”

Proposition T supporters plan to kick off their canvassing efforts Saturday, Oct. 18, with details to be announced soon, he said.

“There will be a blitz come sometime in mid-October to get the vote out, get the word out …,” Clobes said, adding, “… We’re hoping to canvass basically those three Saturdays prior to the election. Actually, the weekend of the 25th and 26th, we’re going to do Saturday and Sunday — canvassing on both of those days …

“We’re working to recruit a lot of canvassing volunteers. We’re hoping to have 320 canvassing volunteers per school per weekend,” he said. “So that’s a lot of folks. That’s a lot of people. What our hope is that once they do it the first weekend, they’ll realize how much fun it is … We think that folks will come back for a second week.”

Volunteers going door to door will in-form voters about the issues related to Proposition T, but will not debate the issue.

Those who wish to volunteer can call Clobes at (314) 495-9108.

“Our theme and message is pretty simple: To maintain quality schools (and) to protect our investment without increasing our taxes,” he said. “And that really kind of sums it up in a nutshell. Prop T is designed to kind of help us balance the budget without taking additional, serious cuts to the district. What we’re trying to do is restore the budget cuts in textbooks and supplies and tutoring, but more importantly, retain and recruit qualified classroom teachers for the district. Terry Noble’s goal of becoming a high-performing school district basically starts with the ability to hire and retain those quality classroom teachers.”

Noting that Mehlville’s per-pupil expenditure is lower than all but one school district in St. Louis County, Clobes said, “That right there tells you we do have a lot of work to do to achieve that high-performing student status and to do that, basically Prop T allows us to start that process. And that begins in the classroom with the classroom teachers and then the ability to have textbooks and any and all of the resources that the kids need to achieve that high-performing status.”

Without Proposition T, Mehlville will not be able to take the next step to becoming a high-performing school district, he said.

“… I think Prop T kind of lays the groundwork, if you will, to help potentially fund future COMPASS initiatives. COMPASS … really kind of charted a path for the district’s future, but this Prop T really allows us to — and is really not necessarily tied into COMPASS — but really allows us to kind of maintain that existing structure and bring some of our classroom teachers up to a little better standing than they are currently as it relates to pay versus other districts,” Clobes said.

Because Mehlville’s budget provides very little revenue for discretionary spending, he said he believes the school district would face “serious budget cuts” if Proposition T is not approved.

“… Whether it be teachers or whether it be personnel or administrators or what have you, there’s a lot at stake with Prop T and I don’t think the people know that … Especially as we’re coming into these economic times, the nice part about this is that it does not involve a tax-rate increase. It allows us to basically maintain the operating levy while reducing our debt-service levy. And I think that’s important. There’s a lot of other propositions out there, a lot of other ballot measures right now that are asking for that tax-rate increase.”

Mehlville officials, he continued, have decided “to do the prudent thing and just ask for maintaining the existing tax rate. … As a parent, you can’t be too involved in your children’s education and this really strikes at the heart of that. I mean you have the choice to go out and vote for the future of your school district and if you want your child’s education to be what it is today and to not be taking a chance on getting cutbacks, then I would encourage all parents to act on behalf of their children and their district and get out and vote.”