Mehlville OKs new tax rate
By ROBERT CHALUPNY
A "blended'' 2003-2004 tax rate totaling $3.8750 per $100 of assessed valuation recently was adopted by the Mehl-ville Board of Education.
The Board of Education voted 6-1 last week to adopt the 2003-2004 tax rate of $3.8750 per $100 of assessed valuation, which is 8.6 cents less than the previous tax rate of $3.961 per $100. Board Vice President Matthew Chellis was opposed.
This year, for the first time, governmental entities in St. Louis County are required to calculate separate tax rates for residential, agricultural, commercial and personal property, Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance andthe district's chief financial officer, told board members.
The four rates, including debt service, are: residential, $3.8229; agricultural, $4.0900; commercial, $3.9681; and personal property, $3.9903.
The reason for the overall decrease in the tax rate from last year is because of the rise in property values from the previous year's, according to Charles.
During his presentation to the board, Charles noted that the residential real estate tax rate for the 2003-2004 school year actually will be $3.8229, a savings of nearly 14 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for Mehlville home owners.
"With this new tax levy rate, the owner of a $100,000 home will actually pay about $26 less in real estate taxes next year," Charles stated in a school district news release. "Looking back through history, the 2003-2004 overall tax levy rate of $3.875 is actually a half cent lower than the rate residents paid in the 1984-'85 school year."
Chellis told the Call that he voted against the tax rate because it included the Consumer Price Index tax-rate adjustment.
The CPI tax rate adjustment serves as a cap that limits the amount of revenue a school district can receive from increases in real estate values due to reassessment to the lesser 5 percent or the CPI. A school board can raise the tax rate by voting to take the CPI adjustment or it can roll back its tax rate.
"It's simple. The CPI adjustment is a tax increase without the approval of the voters and I believe that money should be given back to the tax payers," Chellis said
Superintendent Tim Ricker told the Call he is pleased that the district's blended tax rate is 8.6 cents less than last year's rate.
"I am extremely pleased that we're able to analyze our financial situation and find that we have the ability to follow the law that enables us to reduce our tax rate by the 8.6 cents,'' Ricker said.
"But the word of caution from my perspective is that while we're following the law, we have many, many more needs than finances,'' he emphasized.
Board of Education President Cindy Christopher told the Call, "It's great that we are able to do that, but, on the other hand, we're really being handcuffed by that Hancock Amendment because we're already a hold-harmless school district from the state and we've lost $450,000 this year that they've cut back from the state. We're in a growing community that's good valuations for properties and all that stuff, but we really can't experience much of that because we're held from the Hancock Amendment ...''
The cost of public education is falling more and more on local taxpayers, especially in light of the state funding situation, Ricker said. He is very concerned about the funding situation for next year for districts such as Mehlville that are hold-harmless district in which their state funding is frozen at 1993 levels.
Noting a projected $900 million to $1 billion state funding shortfall next year, Ricker said, "They're going to have to come to us, the hold-harmless districts, to give more and since we've been giving what we consider to be our fair share and even more since '93, if we have to come up and fork up some more money, we have needs. With No Child Left Behind expecting us to do things and the MSIP program expecting us to do better annually, it's asking a person with a Volkswagen Beetle to race in the Indy 500,'' Ricker said. "You can get out there and chug away at it, but it's 500 miles and each lap around the track is quite a stretch.. It's a 2.5-mile race track.''
Christopher said, "And you lose ground every time you go and do that lap.''
Ricker said, "I think by setting our tax rate annually that guarantees our community input into what they're going to spend on public education, but I think more importantly when you look at year in, year out at the Mehlville School District, the value that our community gets for the dollar that they spend, the return on that investment, we're third lowest per-pupil expenditure in the county and we have five schools on the 10 most-im-proved MAP (Missouri Assessment Pro-gram) score list that's just coming out. We have one school on the proverbial top-10 list every year ...''
Christopher pointed out that the 2003-2004 tax rate is less than the district's 1984-1985 tax rate.
Ricker said, "And that's including the additional 49 cents that was approved for Prop P.''
Call Executive Editor Mike Anthony contributed some information for this article.