Mehlville School District voters pass first bond issue since 1992

Proposition S is a no-tax-rate-increase bond measure


Photo by Erin Achenbach

Buffaloes along Lemay Ferry Road? Inflatable turkeys along Telegraph? Supporters of the Mehlville School District’s Proposition S bond issue donned eye-catching costumes at the March 13 ‘donut drive-thru’ at Mehlville High that featured MHS students, above, with junior Emma Maxwell as the Bierbaum Buffalo mascot. Similar sign rallies were also held in Oakville. Another ‘donut drive-thru’ to rally for Prop S was set at the same schools Saturday, April 3.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

Voters approved the Mehlville School District’s Proposition S bond issue with more than 80 percent of the vote Tuesday, the first time voters passed a bond issue since 1992.

South County voters also approved Hancock Place School District’s Proposition R bond issue, which is also a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue.

Mehlville had been the only school district in St. Louis County without a bond issue to fund facilities. Proposition S, a 12-cent, $35 million bond issue, will use part of the funds left from paying off the lease approved by 2000’s Proposition P for facilities to fund secure vestibule entrances at all 18 of Mehlville’s schools, along with basic maintenance and accessibility at all schools. Proposition S stood for “Safe Schools, Safe Kids.”

The campaign committee supporting the ballot measure, the Mehlville-Oakville United Committee, posted on Facebook, “Prop S is a resounding victory with more than 80% of the vote. Our community came together for our schools and our kids. Voters, THANK YOU!”

After a bond issue passed in 1992, a series of bond issues failed in the 1990s, and then for decades the district never tried to pass a bond issue, which under Missouri state law requires a higher threshold for voter approval than the 50 percent plus one of most ballot propositions. Bond issues require a four-sevenths or 57-percent majority to pass. Prop P was a ballot measure for facilities but was structured as an operational tax-rate increase that would fund leases for facilities because the district didn’t believe they could get enough votes to pass a bond issue.

Unlike past ballot measures like 2015’s Proposition R, a 49-cent tax-rate increase to restore budget cuts and hire reading interventionists, there was no organized opposition to Proposition S.

The MOU committee commented in a later post on election night on the historic nature of passage of the bond issue: “History was made today in the Mehlville School District with over 80% of the voters supporting the no tax increase measure. When our district leaders lay out a clear plan on how the money will be spent, our community has always said yes.”

Through the school district’s Facebook page, the Mehlville Board of Education also posted a thank you to voters for approving the bond issue, which the school board unanimously voted in January to place on the April ballot. The original plan was to go to voters in November, but the board decided to delay until April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Mehlville Board of Education is grateful and humbled by your overwhelming approval of Proposition S,” the board posted on the district Facebook page, noting that there was higher turnout for Proposition S than in other April elections. “Thank you for supporting our schools. Your support for Prop S will make our facilities safer and more accessible for current students and generations of students that follow.”

Mehlville-Oakville United posted a series of videos in the weeks leading up to the election, including one featuring hockey legend Brett Hull from the website Cameo, where you can pay celebrities to give personalized messages. Hull says, “I’ve got a message for the residents of Mehlville School District. I heard you have a bond issue on the ballot April 6. Make it your goal to get out and vote for Prop S, we need you.”

The committee also posted a video montage of students in the district asking voters to vote “yes on S” for the children’s safety: “Vote yes on Prop S to keep me safe at school,” one boy says, the first in a series of children asking for the same thing.

A grandmother adds, “I’m voting ‘yes on S’ for my grandkids,” followed by a grandfather asking for a “yes” vote.

Mehlville parent Richard Vagen, who unsuccessfully ran in a five-way race for the school board last year, asked voters to approve Prop S because of the accessibility it will bring to schools. Vagen has volunteered in his daughter’s classroom every year she has been in school, but she will start at a new school next year that is not accessible to wheelchairs.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit to help in my daughter’s classrooms to help with reading, math and art since she was in preschool. Next year will be the first year that I am not able to do that due to her classroom not being accessible. That means not seeing her art in the hallways, no teacher conferences in the space where she learns, or just knowing the environment where she spends her days,” Vagen said in the video. “Prop S will make it so her space and the space for students, staff and families across the district can be accessible so students, all students that have access to the resources they need and deserve to succeed, and so that parents like me will be able to have an active role in their child’s education and see their amazing art hung in their classrooms. That’s why we will be supporting Prop S, and we hope you do too.”