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Start of Mehlville's Proposition P dates back to late 1999


Mike Anthony
Executive Editor
December 07, 2005 - First in a series

An open house celebrating the conclusion of the Mehlville School District’s Proposition P districtwide building improvement program was scheduled Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

The purpose of the open house was to allow public viewing of all Proposition P materials as well as providing a chance for residents to ask questions about the projects, according to a “media alert’’ emailed by the district last week.

The open house was scheduled to take place at the John Cary Early Childhood Center, 3155 Koch Road, one of the three new buildings constructed through Proposition P. Bernard Middle School and a new Oakville Elementary School also were constructed as part of the districtwide building program, which included improvements at every Mehlville school.

Though the district is marking the conclusion of the Proposition P program, some roofing improvements will continue over the next few years so that all of the roofs on district buildings will not have to be replaced at the same time in the future.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

However, the board voted in November 2004 to approve a revised Proposition P budget totaling $88,927,440. The revised Proposition P budget represents a roughly 30 percent increase — more than $20.5 million — over the building improvement program envisioned in 2000.

The beginnings of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program date back to late 1999 when the district had placed before voters five ballot measures designed to address the district’s technology and facility needs since 1995. None of the proposals had passed.

But a sixth issue, designed to make teachers’ pay more competitive with county school districts, received voter approval in April 1998. Mehlville voters approved Proposition T for Teaching, the elimination of the Proposition C sales-tax rollback. That measure increased the district’s tax rate by 33 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Here’s a chronology of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program based on district documentation and published accounts in the Call:

• September 1999 — Citing a nearly $40,000 debt, Larry Weiss, co-chairman of the For Our Future ... For Our Kids Committee, told the Board of Education that the citizens’ group “is not prepared to run another tax levy or bond issue campaign this school year.’’ The committee’s decision was made during a recent meeting, Weiss said.

“The committee is currently $40,000 in debt and incurring additional debt is not a prudent decision,’’ he told the board. “What has changed in the last six months that would lead us to believe the voters are ready to approve a tax increase?’’

Then-Board of Education President David Gralike told the Call that he appreciated the efforts given by committee members, including Weiss and Co-Chairman Rita Diekemper, but hoped to place a proposal before voters in February to address the school district’s immediate needs.

• October 1999 — A former Board of Education member will serve as chairman of the Mehlville School District’s Facilities Management Committee that will prioritize the district’s long-range building needs. Dan Fowler will serve as chairman of the Facilities Management Committee, which will conduct its first meeting Wednesday, Nov. 17, at Bierbaum Elementary School. The committee will be comprised of about 30 people representing all segments of the school district, including district parents, parochial parents, employees, students, community leaders and senior citizens.

Fowler, whose service on the Board of Education from 1989 to 1998 included two one-year terms as president, was asked to serve as chairman of the committee by then-Superintendent John Cary and Gralike.

“I have a lot of reservations about chairing this, although it’s quite an honor to be asked,’’ Fowler told the Call. “In order for me to chair such a committee, it was done with a couple of conditions. I had to have a commitment from this board that they would tone their rhetoric down. While it’s important to discuss ideas, I think it should be done in a less inflammatory way. However, I want to stress that this board is not really different from boards of the past.

“This has been a very grave issue for the Mehlville School District,’’ Fowler said of the district’s facility needs. “It would be a lot of work for nothing if the rhetoric continues.’’

• November 1999 — A newly formed committee prioritizing the Mehlville School District’s long-range building needs will expand its membership to involve as many as 2,000 people, Fowler told the Board of Education. As first reported, the committee was to have been comprised of about 30 people representing all segments of the school district. But Fowler told board members the committee now will include a core committee of about 100 people. In addition, committees of more than 100 members will be formed at each of the district’s 16 schools, Fowler said.

Besides expanding the panel, the committee has a new name. Originally called the Facilities Management Committee, the panel now is called the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities. The committee’s job is to study the district’s facilities and develop a comprehensive plan to address the district’s long-range building needs — including the availability of up-to-date computer technology. The committee plans to present its recommendations to the Board of Education by June 12.

• December 1999 — More than 80 people recently attended the first meeting of the newly expanded Mehlville School District’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities and began work on a project that ultimately could involve as many as 2,000 people.

“I believe that this is probably the most important committee that we’ve ever assembled in the 10½ years that I’ve worked with the Mehlville School District as a volunteer,’’ Fowler said. “I also believe that we have a real chance to make a difference in the lives of 12,000 kids, whether you have kids in the Mehlville School District or not. I think that as a community, we have a responsibility to take care of our buildings and provide a good education, a good, sound education for our kids.’’

The Dec. 8 meeting at Trautwein Accelerated Elementary School was the committee’s second meeting, but the first since the panel was expanded from about 30 members to more than 100 people. Members of the Mehlville School District’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities will have to prioritize long-range needs for schools built as far back as 70 years ago to as recently as 1993.

The panel’s job is to study the district’s facilities and develop a comprehensive plan to address the school district’s long-range building needs. The panel will study the needs of each school building as well as districtwide needs. During a committee meeting, members learned those needs include such things as structural issues, mechanical system replacements and upgrades, additional classroom space, additional storage space, additional parking space and interior finish upgrades, among other things.

• December 1999 — Two high school students will serve as vice chairmen of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities. Erin Graham, 17, a junior at Oakville Senior High School, and Emily Politte, 16, a junior at Mehlville Senior High School, will serve as vice chairmen of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities, according to Cary and Fowler.

Given the the committee’s charge to study Mehlville’s facilities and develop a comprehensive plan to address the school district’s long-range building needs, Cary told the Call that he believes it’s important that students, who will be “directly affected by whatever this committee decides,’’ should be well represented on the panel. The committee, which numbers more than 100 people from all segments of the community, will study the needs of each school building as well as districtwide needs.

“This is an opportunity for this community-based committee to see how well our students can provide leadership to a group like this,’’ Cary said.

The chronology continues next week.

  • Pitch It & Forget It
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