Misperceptions persist on Mehlville’s finances

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Given the Mehlville School District’s current financial crisis, we’d like to clear up some misperceptions regarding the district’s finances.

For example, the current issue of the Mehlville Messenger states, “… The largest issue confronting the Mehlville School District is the fact that a tax levy has not been passed since 1986.”

That’s not exactly accurate, but we don’t blame district officials because they simply weren’t here when past measures were placed on the ballot.

However, the Call has reported on every measure Mehlville has placed on the ballot since 1989.

A summary of elections compiled by district officials states that proposals placed before voters in August 1994, February 1995, November 1995 and April 1998 were designed to eliminate red in the district’s tax levy.

Technically, that’s true, but the measures actually sought to eliminate the state’s Proposition C sales-tax rollback. In April 1998, voters approved the sales-tax rollback, which resulted in a 33-cent tax-rate increase.

As we wrote in this same space in April 1998, “Voters did something they haven’t done in 12 years when they went to the polls April 7 — they approved a tax-rate increase for the Mehlville School District.”

The election summary also notes that voters approved a 49-cent tax rate increase in November 2000 to fund certificates of participation, or COPs.

That’s not exactly accurate, as voters were told that the passage of Proposition P would result in the issuance of leasehold bonds. Instead, COPs were issued in February 2001 because their sale allowed proceeds to be used immediately, instead of waiting until the district began collecting tax revenue from Prop P.

The summary accurately notes that voters approved Proposition T, which transferred 31 cents from the district’s debt-service fund to the operating fund, in November 2008. The measure did not increase Mehlville’s tax rate, but extended the district’s bonded indebtedness by 15 years.

At the forefront of each of these victories at the polls was Dan Fowler, who served three terms on the Board of Education before stepping down in 1998. The district has no bigger supporter than Fowler, who told the school board last week that “Mehlville is tough to pass a tax levy in …”

That’s so true. As we’ve noted before, the vast majority of Mehlville residents want to support their school district, but they must be convinced of the need and be presented with a reasonable proposition.