New group forms to oppose Mehlville’s proposed 88-cent tax-rate hike

Four former board members oppose 88-cent tax-rate hike.


A newly formed group is opposing the Mehlville School District’s Proposition C, citing what it contends is the Board of Education’s lack of credibility and the community’s inability to afford the proposed 88-cent tax-rate increase.

The Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association, a grass-roots, nonpartisan citizens’ group, will sponsor a town-hall forum to discuss the 88-cent tax-rate increase, which would fund roughly $106 million in district improvements. District officials estimate Prop C would generate $15.4 million annually in new revenue.

Specifics of the town-hall forum will be announced soon by the MCTA.

During an interview Friday, MCTA members told the Call they established their organization because of a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the representation being provided by Board of Education members and their belief the board is out of touch with the community.

Greg Frigerio of Concord, who serves as MCTA treasurer, said the roots of the organization can be traced back to earlier this year when the school board increased Mehlville Superintendent Terry Noble’s base salary by $44,088 from $181,912 to $226,000 — a roughly 24-percent raise.

Noble later agreed to relinquish the raise. Board members last month rescinded Noble’s three-year contract and approved a new, one-year agreement that provides for a 6-percent base salary increase — to $192,798 from $181,912.

Frigerio, a small-business owner, and Concord resident Rich Franz, a retired law enforcement official who now works in corporate security, play racquetball together and Franz said the school district became a frequent topic of after-game discussions.

“… We found ourselves more and more on the topic of the Mehlville School District and what the heck is going on with these people?” Franz recalled. “And then the more we talked about it — I don’t know if it was frustration or anger, it was kind of a combination of the two, but the thing that really set me off, that really got me going is … (Board of Education President) Tom Diehl’s classic interview with Elliott Davis where Diehl looks at the camera and says: ‘My decision and the decision of this board isn’t based on how the taxpayers feel.’

“… I was incensed. I thought this guy is crazy. I’m sitting there thinking: Who does he think pays the bills around here? He’s educating our children and we’re the ones paying the bills. If he’s not responsible to us, who is he responsible to? So anyway, that was the thing that lit the fire under my rear …”

The final straw for the two came when the board voted to place Prop C on the Nov. 2 ballot. The 88-cent proposal, if approved, would increase Mehlville’s tax rate by roughly 25 percent, Franz said.

Frigerio and Franz, joined by Ken Meyer of Lemay, a retired TWA worker who serves as MCTA assistant treasurer, contacted some current and former elected officials for advice on how to oppose Prop C.

The three told the Call four former Mehlville Board of Education members — Kurt Witzel, Dick Roehl, Matt Chellis and state Rep. Walt Bivins — have voiced their opposition to Prop C. Also opposed is Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer, who helped lead an effort to defeat the school district’s Proposition A — a 97-cent tax-rate increase — in February 2006.

The MCTA recently launched a “blog” at


Given the economy, the MCTA members question the timing of placing an 88-cent tax-rate increase before voters, citing high unemployment, an increasing number of foreclosures and rising utility costs.

“… We’ve got people in the district who are losing their houses. We just found out Ameren intends to raise their rates … and we’ve got people on fixed incomes,” Franz said. “We’ve got people who are unemployed … We’re dealing with a school board that is literally out of touch. These folks don’t seem to have a clue.”

Frigerio said, “In addition to the ones that are not working or that don’t have a job, the ones that do have a job, employers they’ve cut you down to four days a week. They’ve reduced their 401(k) contributions. They’re telling you you’re taking a 10- or 20-percent pay reduction. If not, go find another job.

“And we’ve got a school board like they’ve got a printing machine some place printing money and all these people in the district have those kind of hardships. It doesn’t make sense. We’re not looking at this from a political standpoint. There’s no Democrats. There’s no Republicans … It’s strictly common sense, common people to live within their means …”

Franz said, “… There’s two issues that we feel like have to be addressed. No. 1, obviously, is the economic one. The money’s not there from the folks who pay the bills. The money isn’t there and even if the money is there, it’s not a good time. But the other thing is the credibility. This board and the pay raise for Noble is a perfect example of that. These folks broke their arms patting themselves on the back when he backed off and only took a 6-percent pay raise.

“Well here’s a news flash for you: A 6-percent pay raise is still going to put him over an additional $10,000 year. You offer that kind of a pay raise to the majority of the people living in this school district and they think they’ve died and went to heaven … From a public relations perspective, this thing was a disaster for them and it blew their credibility out of the water because if they don’t realize how people are hurting, how can they expect us to trust them with any kind of tax increase?”

The MCTA’s opposition to Prop C “isn’t personal,” Franz said, adding, “The taxpayers aren’t sitting back in their living rooms saying: I hate Terry Noble. I hate Tom Diehl. This isn’t a beef with Tom Diehl. This isn’t a beef with Terry Noble.

“This is a beef with spending money without the board proving their credibility … As long as people believe the board doesn’t know what it’s doing, they’re certainly not going to trust them with their money.”

Frigerio said, “People just don’t have it. I don’t know what part that board doesn’t understand and what those administrators don’t understand. We’re not the federal government. People just can’t print money and keep writing checks and until they understand that, me personally, I’m going to keep voting against any tax increase because I don’t have it. I own my own business. I’ve had to take a 30-percent cut in pay because construction business is down that much.”

The MCTA is not anti-public education nor is its opposition to Prop C political, Franz said, adding, “… It’s not about Republicans and Democrats or anything like that.

“It’s about doing what’s right and doing what’s right right now.”

Meyer interjected, “Living within your means.”

Franz said, “Let’s talk about this thing in two or three years — or in two or three years let’s not even talk about 88 cents.

“Eighty-eight cents is unrealistic whenever. But if you want to talk about a tax increase, let’s talk about it in a few years, but don’t talk about it now. It’s like you said, Ken, it’s disrespectful to the people in the district who are trying to get by …”