Rejection of Prop C result of board’s failure to listen

\Call the Tune\ by Mike Anthony

\”Call the Tune\” by Mike Anthony

In his classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Bob Dylan sang: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Pretty much the same could be said of the Mehlville School District’s Proposition C, an 88-cent tax-rate increase that more than 62 percent of voters rejected in the Nov. 2 election.

Immediately after the defeat, Mehlville leaders said they would ask the community why more than 23,000 voters rejected Prop C.

Really? Despite the assertions of some proponents, including Board of Education members, that Prop C had a solid chance of being approved by voters, nothing could have been further from the truth.

We don’t want to come across as mean-spirited, but board members’ unwillingness to listen to reason and common sense blinded them Aug. 19 when they voted 6-0 — Vice President Venki Palamand was absent — to place Prop C on the ballot.

Board members initially were contemplating placing a 94-cent tax-rate increase on the ballot. During an Aug. 14 retreat, Palamand suggested that if the board sought a 47-cent tax-rate increase — half of 94 cents — it could still generate $75 million for capital projects by dedicating 30 cents of that levy to capital expenses.

That suggestion didn’t sit too well with board President Tom Diehl and then-board member Karl Frank Jr., who resigned after Prop C’s defeat.

This newspaper suggested in an Aug. 19 column that Mehlville voters would support a reasonable tax-rate increase if they were given the opportunity. We wrote that Palamand’s suggestion of a 47-cent tax-rate increase “may be a stretch, but we believe it would be more in the ballpark of what residents are willing to support. We encourage the board to consider a reasonable tax-rate increase and avoid a repeat of 2006’s Prop A — a 97-cent tax-rate increase that was thoroughly trounced by voters.”

We wrote that any ballot measure proposed by the board would have a huge hurdle to overcome given the public’s dissatisfaction with its handling of Superintendent Terry Noble’s contract — since relinquished — that provided him a roughly $44,000 raise. After the defeat of Prop C, the board accepted Noble’s retirement, effective on June 30.

Before the board voted Aug. 19 to place Prop C on the ballot, former school board President Ken Leach told the current board that a 94-cent tax-rate increase “has the same odds of passing as a lottery winner getting struck by lightning.”

But the board went ahead and voted 6-0 to place Prop C on the ballot.

We recently learned that Dan Fowler, co-chair of the Facilitating Team for the district’s community-engagement effort, privately urged board and district leadership to remove Prop C from the ballot.

In this week’s issue, the Call’s Evan Young reports that a recent district survey found Prop C failed last November primarily because the ballot measure asked for too much money at the wrong time.

Really? Though the survey is an unscientific one, we agree with incoming Superintendent Eric Knost, who termed it a “learning tool.”

At last summer’s board retreat, Palamand contended there would be a “real cost to losing” if a tax-rate increase did not pass in November.

It’s too bad his fellow board members didn’t listen to him or the community.