Three candidates give their views on challenges facing Lindbergh board

Three Lindbergh candidates discuss issues facing board

By Mike Anthony

Three Board of Education candidates last week gave their views on issues facing Lindbergh Schools, including what they believe are the board’s biggest short- and long-term challenges.

James Goss, Kate Holloway, George Rezabek and Karen Schuster are vying in the April 3 election for two seats being vacated by Mark Rudoff and Ken Fey, who did not file for re-election.

Holloway, Rezabek and Schuster participated in the March 15 forum that attracted roughly 45 people. The event was sponsored by the Board of Education and moderated by board President Vic Lenz.

Regarding the board’s biggest short- and long-term challenges, Holloway said, “I think the shortfall of revenue and the potential increase of enrollment. The good thing is that we are a thriving community and certainly new families are welcome into our community. We want to be growing and we want families to stay and then come back …”

She cited the “uncertainty” regarding the potential for an influx of students based on the outcome of the pending Turner v. School District of Clayton court case.

“… I think uncertainty about how much that enrollment would grow to accommodate other kids into the schools. So I think being able to maintain our educational excellence and balance that out with a concern of having new students come in …,” Holloway said.

Rezabek said, “I believe (of) the short-term issues that face the board, No. 1 is funding, and we all know that that’s the elephant in the room, if you will. And we know that we have to deal with that, and we have to take care of our educators. And the reason I say that is we have to maintain quality teachers and quality educational programs because … the reputation of the district and the education of our children are at risk.

“If we can maintain quality education with quality faculty like we have now, that’s our short-term issue. Long term, I agree with Kate, will be the increasing enrollment.

“Hopefully, as the enrollment increases and if we do have to open Dressel (purchased last summer by the district), et cetera, that the assessments of property in the district will start to increase more and more. As the properties increase, assessments increase in the district through Prop L (a 65-cent, tax-rate increase approved in 2010). Hopefully that will give us more revenue. But I believe those are our short-term and long-term issues that we need to think about.”

Schuster said, “I can’t disagree with either of those. Short term, obviously, is the resources that we have available and being able to divvy those out to the places that are most important, which would be in the classroom for our educators to ensure our class sizes are as small as possible. And I think the board faces a challenge with that, knowing that our revenues probably aren’t going to grow a lot in the short term. So that will be an interesting balancing act … You’ve got to make your resources available to keep the quality of our education at the level that it’s at.

“On a long-term basis, I think our ‘land lock’ is probably one of our biggest challenges, in trying to grow with limited space that we have available within the district — both building and acreage-wise … The district, I know, does a great job of balancing all of that out, and we really need to look to the future from the standpoint of making sure that we’ve got enough space so that we can maintain really quality extracurricular programs and quality classroom programs.”

Lenz noted that Lindbergh Schools receives 93 percent of its revenue from local and personal property taxes. “Many people and politicians want these taxes lowered by whatever means available. What are your views?” he asked the candidates.

Schuster said, “… I think it’s a good thing that we’re kind of privately funded in that way. I think our community should be proud that we’re able to sustain, for the most part, our public education, and I think we need to be proud of the fact that we have one of the lowest tax rates in the St. Louis area …

“I think Lindbergh needs to sell itself to community residents, to people that may come in, to businesses on that fact. I think that’s key. We’ve been frugal. We’ve been prudent, and we’ve been able to deliver on that, and I think it’s a course that we need to continue to maintain. Lower taxes would be great. The economy, obviously, ebbs and flows. At some point, our low tax rate will start generating some more revenue for the district, and at that point — and I know we’ve done it in the past — the district needs to save for that rainy day.

“That’s one of the things that helped us get through this and allowed us to keep our tax rate relatively low. So I would hope that while we can’t necessarily lower it, at least right now, because we’re not going to see our assessed values go up and we do need the revenues to maintain, I would hope that we could do that without raising the tax rate. And in the future, if there’s the possibility that we can once again put away for a rainy day and strengthen up the financials for the district, we might be able to do that favor to the residents of our community …”

Holloway said, “… We do have the lowest tax rate in the Lindbergh School District, and I feel that Lindbergh has managed that very effectively and frugally. We have a resource where we were able to expand our schools, that (expansion was) necessary. We were able to invest. So I think that the Board of Education has done an excellent job in planning ahead … We have changed and everybody’s feeling the economic pinch, especially those that are on fixed incomes.

“… (The community) is very supportive of education in Lindbergh School District and we do pick up and carry a major portion of the education bills in our district. I think that we need to change the funding formula with (the state of) Missouri. I think that we should be able to be receiving more money from them, if anything (to reduce the burden on seniors with fixed incomes) …,” she said.

Rezabek said, “With the 93 percent of the income coming from our tax base and the rest coming from other funding, it does put us on a tighter ship, if you will, and I believe the board and the present school district administration has managed that nicely. I’d like to take a little bit different tack on this, though, and while it was necessary for Prop L to be passed — and I agreed with it and I voted for it and went out canvassing for it — if you look at this way: A strong school district is good for everybody in the community.

“Yes, we asked for an increase, but that increase in tax rate not only gave us more funding for the schools, but if you have a strong school district, it helps those on a fixed income. Now, you say, ‘How does that happen?’ Well, when they retire, if they would like to sell their property or whatever, what’s one of the first things a Realtor will tell you that the buyer looks at? What’s the rating of your school district? And I believe for that reason, it’s beneficial to all …”