Survey results to be presented to Mehlville Board of Education

One survey question pertains to pact approved by board for superintendent.


Results of a community survey designed to gauge the public’s opinion of the Mehlville School District are set to be presented this week.

The Board of Education is scheduled to hear and discuss those results when it meets at 7 p.m. today — July 29 — at the district’s Central Office, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

The survey results were not available at the Call’s press time.

Board members on June 24 approved an $18,250 proposal from communications firm UNICOM•ARC to conduct a 500-sample, 10-minute telephone survey of the community.

The survey will determine the level of community support for the district’s long-range improvement plan, COMPASS II — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools. That plan contains $107 million worth of proposals that are designed to make Mehlville a high-performing school district.

The survey also will give district officials an idea of how much of a tax-rate increase, if any, voters would support this November. To fund all $107 million in COMPASS II recommendations, the district would need to ask voters for a 94-cent tax-rate increase. In addition, the survey will examine residents’ views on other aspects of the district, such as the performance of the Board of Education.

And at least one of the questions, Superintendent Terry Noble confirmed last week, pertains to the three-year contract the school board extended to him earlier this year.

Board members voted unanimously during a March 25 closed session to renew Noble’s contract, effective July 1 through June 30, 2013. He will be paid $226,000 per school year for the duration of the agreement, an increase of $44,088 — or 24.2 percent — over his 2009-2010 school year salary of $181,912.

UNICOM•ARC previously conducted a community survey for the district in July 2008.

In that survey, 64.8 percent of respondents said they would favor a debt-service transfer of 31 cents per $100 of assessed valuation into the district’s operating fund.

At the same time, 59 percent of the 400 participants said they would oppose restoring the district’s tax rate to its 2006 level by increasing the overall tax rate by 37 cents.

The board subsequently put the transfer proposal on the November 2008 ballot as Proposition T, and the measure won with more than 62 percent of the vote.

However, the board did not put the 37-cent tax-rate increase on the ballot.

Tonight’s survey results come about two weeks after the district and its architectural consultant, Dickinson Hussman Architects, unveiled an alternative proposal for one of the COMPASS II recommendations.

After spending several weeks developing master plans for renovations at five district schools, Dickinson Hussman determined proposed renovations at Buerkle Middle School weren’t feasible due to the building’s current condition and small campus.

Therefore, Dickinson Hussman and district officials have proposed constructing a new Buerkle north of Mehlville Senior High School on the site of the district’s bus and maintenance facilities.

While Buerkle parents and staff suggested at recent COMPASS II community engagement sessions the district build a new middle school, officials had hoped to save money by performing a “gut rehab” on the existing facility.

The cost to build a new Buerkle has been estimated at roughly $21 million, while the cost to renovate the current site has been estimated at roughly $11 million.

A two-cent tax-rate increase would generate about $5 million for capital projects, officials have estimated. Therefore, a new Buerkle would require an eight- or nine-cent tax-rate increase. However, instead of adding those eight or nine cents onto to the 94 cents already needed to fund the COMPASS II recommendations, Noble said last week the district could offset the added cost of building a new middle school by shaving dollars off the cost to renovate two elementary schools.

Besides Buerkle, renovations are proposed at Oakville and Washington middle schools, as well as Bierbaum and Trautwein elementary schools. Noble said the district initially thought it would take roughly $20 million to complete all of the proposed renovations at Bierbaum and Trautwein.

However, the district expects the Dickinson Hussman facilities master plans to show the actual cost of those renovations to be about half of that, Noble said.

“The initial budget numbers I was given for Trautwein and Bierbaum turned out to be pretty hefty numbers for what it would take to renovate them. Actually, the amount given was enough to rebuild them,” Noble said. “… And if it is half of that you recapture that $10 million for Buerkle right there.”

The district also could see some nominal cost savings by installing new HVAC systems at the two elementary schools, Noble added.

“As you put in new energy efficient systems, there are some savings in utility costs and things like that,” he said. “… It would take more than that to pay for the additional $10 million (for Buerkle). We wouldn’t get that kind of savings. Every little bit helps, but I think the real source for paying for that, without having to increase the 94 cents, comes from those other facilities that we’re renovating.”

Noble emphasized the importance of the Dickinson Hussman facilities master planning in determining the true cost of renovating — and in Buerkle’s case, rebuilding — the five schools.

The $75,000 master planning agreement was approved by the board on a 4-3 vote at its May 27 meeting. Board members spent a considerable amount of time that evening debating whether the district should spend the money on master plans for renovations when it didn’t know if the community would support funding them at the polls.

“That facilities study, we wanted that done before we put the measure on the ballot because we wanted to know what it would cost, and that’s what the facilities study does for us,” Noble said. “So now that we know that we can’t take $11 million and renovate Buerkle — we’re going to need, say, $21 million. We’re also pretty confident when they get that (study) done, we’re not going to need $20 million total for the two elementary schools. And our hope is we’ll need about half of that, so that 94 cents can remain 94 cents if it comes out that way.”