On the evening before the first day of school, the Maryville R-II Board of Education approved a property tax adjustment designed to bring in sufficient revenue to service the district's debt load.
Superintendent Larry Linthacum said the new debt-service levy of 69 cents per $100 of assessed valuation should be sufficient to cover R-II's bond obligations despite a recommendation by the Missouri auditor's office that the district increase the rate to 74 cents, which under state law the board could have done without seeking voter approval.
The current levy is just over 61 cents, and Linthacum said that in a tough local economy he did not feel "comfortable increasing our debt service to the state auditor's recommendation."
He added that the tax hike means patrons who own a home valued at $100,000 will see an increase of a little more than $12 on their tax bills.
The School Board set the district's operating levy at $4.35 per $100 of assessed valuation, down from the current mark of $4.36. The new rate is based on a Proposition C rollback variable of 26 cents, which was subtracted from the operating tax ceiling of $4.61.
Proposition C is the state’s one-cent sales tax dedicated to education and approved by voters in 1982. Half the revenue collected from the Proposition C tax is intended to reduce or roll back property taxes.
Linthacum told the board that R-II's total assessed valuation is $193 million, which is up about $3 million over last year, or 1.44 percent. District patrons will now pay a combined debt-service/operations levy of $5.041, up from $4.9758 for a 6.5-cent increase per $100 of assessed valuation.
In addition to adjusting the property tax levy, the R-II governing board also adopted a $17.3 million budget for the 2012-'13 school year, which though balanced on paper contains a $47,000 operations deficit. The black ink was created by a surplus on the debt-service side of the ledger totaling $441,000.
However, the district is prohibited from using debt-service funds for operations, and Linthacum said R-II hopes to make up the difference through staff attrition and other economies over the course of the school year.
Given the size of the district's budget, which is roughly the same as last year despite continued cuts in state funding, Linthacum said he doesn't expect closing the relatively small gap to be a problem.
"The way we approach this is to spend less money than we take in," he said.
"My goal is to finish $1 in the black; we're not trying to make money from our patrons.
Like virtually all public school districts, R-II spends the lion's share of its operations budget, around 70 percent, on personnel. Linthacum called the district's faculty and staff its "most valuable resource," adding that he was committed to making teacher pay as attractive as possible.
"We want to pay a competitive price because we want to have the greatest teachers that we can have here," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Maryville R-II is starting the fall semester with about 1,360 students, nearly 490 of which kindergarten-through-fourth-grade pupils at Eugene Field Elementary School. Middle school enrollment is around 420, and 450 students have signed up for classes at Maryville High School.
In other business, the board formally accepted a $12,000 donation to the Area Cooperative for Educational Support from local businessman Mark Burnsides. ACES Director Debbie From said the gift essentially reduces the alternative school's rent on its facility at 2416 S. Main Street by $1,000 a month.
The gift will not be used to make up for lost grant funds that will apparently force ACES to close its alternative school operation at the end of the current school year. However, the cooperative also provides support services for special education programs across the region and will continue in that role after grant funding expires.