Mehlville school board sets hearing Thursday on proposed tax rates

Current assessed valuation in district totals $1.74 billion

Chris Gaines

Chris Gaines

By Gloria Lloyd

Although Mehlville School District voters will get a chance to weigh in on whether the school district’s tax rate should increase in November, in the short term the district’s 2015 tax rate will decrease due to higher assessed valuation.

The Board of Education will hold its annual tax-rate hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 in the Mehlville High School Library, 3180 Lemay Ferry Road. The board’s regular meeting will follow at 7 p.m.

“When assessed valuation is going up, you’ve got to roll back,” Superintendent Chris Gaines said. “We went up a little bit, so we’ve got to roll back a little bit, between 2 and 3 cents.”

The proposed blended tax rate for 2015 is $3.7539, down from $3.761 last year. The blended tax rate is not levied, but used for state calculations.

The board placed a 49-cent tax-rate increase, Proposition R, on the Nov. 3 ballot, and any increase would go into effect for the 2016 school year. The district currently has the second-lowest tax rate of any district in St. Louis County and still would if Prop R passes.

Since final assessed valuation went up an average of 1.9 percent when district properties were reassessed this year, however, for 2015 the district’s tax rate will decrease by nearly 1 percent since the total revenue the district takes in can only rise by the rate of inflation, or 0.8 percent, said Chief Financial Officer Marshall Crutcher.

Assessed valuation went down $9 million after appeals from the initial projection last spring, and overall, assessed valuation in the district is up 1.9 percent, down following appeals from the initial 3.2-percent preliminary increase released in March.

Under the Hancock Amendment, Mehlville cannot raise its tax rates to match the increase in assessed valuation. Revenue can rise 0.8 percent from last year to match inflation, which means the tax rate decreases and the district will receive roughly $500,000 more from the higher assessed valuations — recapturing roughly the same amount that the district could not receive the last two years because it reached its maximum residential tax rate two years ago.

The district can receive the full rate on new construction in the district, which totals $90,000 this year.

Overall since last year, tax revenue for Mehlville will increase $800,000 for its tax rates dedicated to pay debt from certificates of participation, or COPs, and $135,000 to pay its debt in general-obligation bonds. The operating revenue stream will decrease $200,000.

“We get the money needed to pay existing debt, but as far as general spending money, we have a decrease of $200,000,” Crutcher said.

At the Call’s press time, current assessed valuation in the district is $1.74 billion, up from $1.66 billion last year.

During the last reassessment year two years ago, assessed valuation plummeted $41 million after appeals, and the board approved a rollback of the tax rate by 2 cents from the top tax rate it could have set, a decision that has saved taxpayers $660,000 over the last two years. Since the district had reached its maximum tax rate, it also lost $580,000 of the revenue it collected the year before.

At the time, board member Lori Trakas said it was a unique opportunity for the board to reward the taxpayers for their historic support of the district.

“People in this community do remember,” she said. “There may come a time when the community remembers that you remembered them when they were having such a hard time economically.”