Prop P Review Committee to invite former administrators, architect to address panel

Committee will next meet in January

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Mehlville School District’s Proposition P Review Committee plans to ask two former district administrators and the architect of the districtwide building improvement program to address the panel next month.

During their fifth meeting last week, committee members discussed inviting former Superintendent John Cary, former Assistant Superintendent for Finance Randy Charles and Dwight Dickinson of Dickinson Hussman Architects to answer questions about the districtwide building-improvement program.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase. However, a final budget revision approved by the Board of Education in December 2005 raised the Proposition P budget to $89,137,440 — a roughly 30.3-percent increase — more than $20.7 million over the nearly $68.4 million building improvement program envisioned six years ago.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in June to approve a motion by Vice President Karl Frank Jr. and seconded by board member Tom Diehl to establish the Proposition P Review Committee. In part, Frank’s motion states, “The Proposition P Review Committee will first seek input from the community by soliciting questions from the public in written form to be individually addressed in the final report. The submitted questions, as well as any other areas that the committee members should find necessary to review, will become the basis of this committee’s charge.”

Nearly 100 questions about the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program were submitted to the committee by the Oct. 18 deadline for questions. The majority of the questions were submitted by Frank and his wife, Elaine. Two other residents also submitted questions to the committee.

During their past few meetings, including the Dec. 6 meeting, committee members have started to address the questions.

In addition, at the panel’s Nov. 13 meeting, Chuck VanGronigen, a former Board of Education member who served as chairman of the Proposition P Oversight Committee, addressed the review committee.

He discussed the role of the Oversight Committee and answered questions.

At the Dec. 6 meeting, Proposition P Re-view Committee member Greg Hayden raised the issue of inviting Charles, who served as Mehlville’s chief financial officer from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2005, to address the committee. Charles currently is superintendent of the Hillsboro School District.

Co-chairman Kurt Witzel asked committee members what they thought about that prospect and then said, “… I guess my thought on that is if other people are willing to come and answer questions for us, at this point I’m like willing to take any information I can get. I guess the other part, I think, is I don’t want to short shrift this thing and just get done with it to be done with it and get it over with quickly.

“I’d rather, if it takes us more time to go through and invite a couple people to a meeting and ask them questions — I’m not sure they’ll come — but if they will come, I think we’re better off than just sort of assuming because they have all the knowledge. They lived through it, none of us did …,” Witzel said.

He later added, “A lot of questions, we have the action, but we don’t know what the motivation was behind why they did what they did when they did it.”

Hayden said, “It’ll either help give us some direction to determine a correct answer or validate what we’ve come up with already …”

Committee members indicated their support for inviting other people associated with the districtwide building improvement program to address the committee and answer questions.

Witzel said he’d like to ask those people some of the questions that have been posed to the committee, specifically saying he wants more information about how the 49-cent tax-rate increase was used. For example, of the voter-approved 49-cent tax-rate increase, 41.6 cents was being used in 2003 to retire bond-like certificates of participation, while 7.4 cents was going into the district’s capital fund and being used for Proposition P-related projects. Revenue generated by the 7.4 cents was designated as “non-Prop P funds” or “district capital funds.”

“… Personally, I’d sort of like to ask a lot of these questions (ones posed to the committee) as far as why was this called Prop P funds? How did this end up being called district capital funds? I’d really love to know. I’d love somebody from a financial basis to say when — at what point did we know that this was going to be more than $72 million …,” he said.

Another question that has never been answered, Witzel said, is the issue of soliciting the community to decide what to do with the excess funds generated by the 49 cents.

“… That’s asked several times in here. It’s like, do we need to go back to the community and ask people what they want to do? If they want to continue on or if they want to cut back, and it was never done. And it would be interesting if somebody could answer that question, which I think is one of the bigger ones,” he said.

Of asking people to address the panel, committee member Debra Selinger later said, “… I mean that’s fine if you can get somebody to come in, but that’s asking a lot of people.”

Witzel said, “Well, I actually — I got a call a couple of days ago from somebody who said they were talking to Dwight Dickinson and he was more than willing to come answer any questions. I think that Chuck (VanGronigen) — the article that was in the paper with Chuck answering questions that we had for him last meeting, I think the people who were involved in that are now saying: I’ve got some of those answers, too. I’d be willing to come and answer it, if that’s OK.”

Witzel asked who else the committee might like to invite, noting that Charles and Dickinson have expressed an interest.

“What about (former Superintendent) John Cary?” he asked.

Committee member Lisa O’Donnell said, “That’s what I was thinking. I don’t know if he’ll come, but …”

Committee members indicated they’d like to invite Cary, who retired as superintendent in 2003, Charles and Dickinson to their next meeting in January. The committee did not finalize a specific date for its next meeting, tentatively scheduling the meeting for Jan. 8, Jan. 9 or Jan. 18, depending on the availability of Cary, Charles and Dickinson.

Committee meetings start at 7 p.m. in the district’s Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.