Sensing apprehension and a lack of agreement among board of education members, St. Clair R-XIII School District Superintendent Mike Murphy pulled his recommendation on Thursday night regarding a 2014 bond issue.
With a Jan. 28 deadline looming to get any kind of tax initiative on the April 8 election ballot, St. Clair area voters now will not be faced with having to make a decision this year about whether to allow the local school district to borrow money to pay for additional classrooms, a new vocational education building and a new roadway that would connect High School Drive with Bardot Street.
The latest language that was discussed in December was for a $5 million bond issue.
To fund the project, board members had kicked around raising the district’s debt service levy in the neighborhood of 15 cents.
“If we’re not unified in this board room, it becomes very challenging,” Murphy said during Thursday’s board of education meeting. “If we look at current conditions, we have to respect the local atmosphere and the economy. It becomes a balancing act. ...
“Because of that, I don’t feel I’m in a position to make a recommendation at this time.”
The board started discussing the potential bond issue last summer. As talk continued last month, board members were in disagreement over it, but agreed to mull over the facts and figures presented and make a decision during their January meeting.
“With the economic conditions the way they are, if we’re not unified, we can table this and take a look at again later,” board President Dave Berkel said during Thursday’s meeting.
There actually was no vote taken of any kind on Thursday night relating to anything regarding the bond issue.
“With the mood of the board in previous meetings, I really don’t think this is the best time to do this,” Berkel told The Missourian after the meeting. “We’ll take a look at it again later.”
In November, board members discussed $7 and $10 million bond initiatives that focused on school improvement and safety issues. After there was disagreement during that meeting, Murphy came back last month with the $5 million option.
“In our discussion in the prior month, there was an array of things listed,” Murphy told board members in December in relation to the bond issue discussion. “You directed me to pare down items in relation to cost.”
At that time, the superintendent presented a new proposal to the board that centered on three items — building a seven-classroom wing at the high school that would feature four state-of-the-art science labs, adding a new vocational education building and constructing a basic road that would connect High School Drive with Bardot Street with a goal of improving safety near the high school campus.
As part of the deal, the current modular classrooms used by the high school would be removed.
The estimated price tag was $4.946 million.
Specific cost breakdowns were about $3.7 million for the classrooms, $882,000 for the vocational building and $350,000 for the road.
“I think it might be a good idea to just sit back ...” board member Andy Geisert said on Thursday.
“I’m disappointed, very disappointed, but I agree with the recommendation (on not to proceed),” board member Tracy Komo said.
If the board would have decided to move forward, the district would have placed the initiative on the April ballot. Then, if voters would have approved it, the talk was that the board would raise the debt service tax levy to pay off the debt.
The amount kicked around in December was the 15 cents per every $100 of assessed valuation.
St. Clair R-XIII currently operates with an overall tax levy of $3.37.
Figures presented by LJ Hart, the firm that assists R-XIII with its financial planning, showed that a 15-cent debt service levy tax hike — from 62 to 77 cents per every $100 of assessed valuation — would increase residential property taxes by $28.50 annually on a $100,000 home.
Personal property taxes also would increase. The example given was that a 2010 pickup truck valued at $21,500 would cost the taxpayer an additional $10.74 per year if the debt service levy would increase by the 15 cents.
Commercial and agricultural property also would be affected.
St. Clair R-XIII has used a $2.75 operating fund tax levy since the 2004-05 academic year. The amount currently is the state’s minimum figure allowed and includes a 70-cent teachers fund.
St. Clair also uses the 62-cent debt service tax levy. District officials control that amount and can raise or lower it to a certain point without voter approval. It has been 62 cents since 2001-02.
The tax rates all are based on per $100 of assessed valuation.