Mehlville School District Considers Potential Future Ballot Measure – St. Louis Call Newspapers
The deposit could be used for facilities or a tax levy to meet competitive salaries
Voters in the Mehlville School District could consider a ballot measure for the school district in the form of a bond, a tax levy, or both over the next four to six years.
In a strategic plan update at the June 9 board of education meeting, Superintendent Chris Gaines told the board the district faces a series of financial challenges that may require ballot action. to offset their effects, including stagnating state formula funding for public schools, rising commodity costs, escalating construction costs, and the need to keep salaries competitive. The district has the second lowest mixed tax rate in St. Louis County.
A 2021 court ruling also changed how local tax districts could calculate taxes, which affected all school districts in the state, including Mehlville.
Gaines said the district has been able to address some of those challenges by reprioritizing capital projects and changing the district’s debenture-type equity certificate reallocation plan. Like all public school districts, Mehlville also received federal Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds to mitigate and address learning loss due to the pandemic.
Gaines told the board that according to state and federal government data, Mehlville has used 86% of its ESSER funds to date to address learning loss, however, the funds expire in 2024.
“Those are the moves we can make. You go beyond those moves, the community is going to have to decide because anything beyond that will require some type of ballot measurement,” Gaines said. “As we look at the challenges ahead of us, it just forces us to recalculate consistently.”
The district has several options for when and how it asks voters to approve another ballot measure. If he wishes to keep the positions currently funded by ESSER – learning interventionists, student mental health supports, after-school supports – voters would need to be asked for a levy in either 2022-23 or 2023-24. A levy to meet competitive salaries could also be requested in the same years. In 2023-24, the district could terminate Proposal A—the 2016 bond that increased the district’s capital projects fund by 4 cents—early and request another facility bond measure. Proposal A could be extended with an increase in 2024-25 or 2025-26, or the district could seek another facility tax to address HVAC and ongoing facility upgrades.
The earliest the district could ask for anything would be the Nov. 8 ballot, which would require a council decision and the necessary information to St. Louis County by Aug. 30.
“For example, if – capital I, capital F, underline, bold, all that – if the council was going to ask for something in November, that decision would have to be made … a bit before (Aug. 30.),” Gaines said. “We can see it like this: if we were to keep the ESSER funded positions, what are the possible years that we could do that?… Competitive salaries… that’s probably something that could be looked at at any time Finish the Proposal Early, there’s really only one window to do it.
Board Chair Peggy Hassler said the district would benefit from collecting data on how ESSER-funded learning interventions and other supports are improving students’ academic performance. if the district planned to ask voters to approve a ballot measure.
“In the past, we had discussed that we would like to see data and keep data on improvements. So if we’re going to go back to taxpayers to see if they would support retaining staff, we need data on what good that would do,” Hassler said.
Director Scott Huegerich said it might be worth pointing out that 86% of ESSER money was used for apprenticeship clawbacks if the district decides to pursue a ballot measure over the next two months. school years to maintain positions funded by ESSER.
“I think it’s remarkable that the federal government wants to highlight the Mehlville School District because we used 86% of our ESSER funds for learning recovery. This is absolutely exceptional and anyone familiar with the district’s fiscal performance should take note,” Huegerich said. “I guess what I’m trying to do is look at this from a community messaging perspective because if we ask them – the ESSER funds are going to disappear, we want to maintain that staff – we have to show in a tangible way in an easy to understand way what we’re accomplishing by keeping these people in. It’s a very easy story to tell to the community.
Gaines said there was concern about the “cliff edge” approach for school districts that used ESSER funds for employee salaries, and that Mehlville had always approached ESSER-funded positions as a resource. ended without additional funding mechanism.
“I know districts across the country, they used every penny of that money to support employee salaries. It’s going away, what are you going to do with it? I think there is concern that a cliff is approaching for some school districts,” Gaines said. “So the conversation has changed if we want to keep (the ESSER-funded positions), more resources have to come into play.”
The last ballot measure in the district was Proposition S in 2021, a $35 million no-tax-rate increase bond for facilities and safety upgrades. In 2015, voters approved Proposition R, a 49-cent increase in the school district’s property tax.