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Revised Proposition P budget a step closer to final approval


A revised budget for the Mehlville School District's Proposition P districtwide building improvement program that projects expenditures totaling more than $86 million is a step closer to final approval.

Four Mehlville Board of Education members and district administrators hammered out formatting issues for the proposed revised budget during a workshop Thursday afternoon. The Board of Education was scheduled to consider approval of the revised Proposition P budget Monday night — after the Call went to press.

Board members have been digesting Proposition P expenditures and projected expenditures at meetings since June. In July, the board referred the proposed revised Proposition P budget to the Proposition P Oversight Committee.

At a July 30 meeting, Oversight Committee members said they wanted to be apprised of all expenditures relating to Proposition P and also recommended the Board of Ed-ucation establish a firm budget for the districtwide building improvement program.

When the revised Proposition P budget was discussed Aug. 25, the Board of Education took no action, instead deciding to have board members meet with administrators and hammer out formatting of the revised budget during a workshop session.

During the workshop session, board President Cindy Christopher said the previous budget was complex, but made sense to people regularly dealing with the numbers.

"We wanted to come up with something more concise for the community's look so it makes more sense for someone who is not as familiar with the numbers," Christopher said.

Superintendent Tim Ricker told administrators and board members at the workshop that he would make several recommendations to the board, including having the board conduct an annual analysis and review of the Proposition P budget.

He also said he would recommend placing the Proposition P budget on the consent agenda once a month at board meetings. This would allow board members to either pass a blanket motion and approve the budget along with other items that appear on the consent agenda or members would have the monthly opportunity to pose questions and raise concerns they have with the Proposition P budget, including expenditures.

District voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million districtwide building improvement program funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

Under the proposed revised Proposition P budget, the total cost of the districtwide building improvement program and related projects would be $86,725,000.

Meanwhile, current district projections indicate the 49-cent tax-rate increase will generate nearly $26 million more over 20 years than what is required to retire bond-like certificates of participation issued to fund the Proposition P improvements.

In October 2001, the Board of Education voted to approve a $72.4 million budget for Proposition P. Interest on the bond-like certificates of participation issued to fund Proposition P allowed the construction bud-get to increase to $72.4 million, which included a nearly $3.5 million master contingency.

A total of $83,730,000 worth of certificates of participation was issued in two separate sales — one for $36.9 million and a second for $46.83 million. The first certificate sale in March 2001 also included the advance refunding of $6 million worth of leasehold revenue bonds that the district had issued three years earlier as part of a long-term energy savings project.

Because the leasehold revenue bonds for the energy savings were not "callable'' until 2008, an escrow fund of more than $6 million was established with the certificate proceeds to make the principal and interest payments on those bonds, resulting in a savings of $126,000. When those bonds can be retired in 2008, the escrow money will make the final payment.

The proposed revised Proposition P budget of $86,725,000 includes the board-approved budget of $72.4 million, plus another $14,325,000 in district capital funds. To date, a total of $6,728,817 of district capital funds has been spent on Proposition P-related projects.

As of Aug. 30, the district had spent $55.5 million on Proposition P projects and Proposition P-related projects.

Current estimates indicate the 49-cent tax-rate increase will generate $170,165,506 through 2022, while the amount needed to retire the certificates of participation is projected at $144,346,224 — leaving a surplus of $25,819,282 in district capital funds.

Ricker told the Call that he would like to see all of the building improvement projects completed before board members decide what to do with surplus revenue. "Let's finish these projects and then see where we can go from there. But that truly is a board decision," he said. "Let's get that first phase done and then let's look at what our options are. As I've said before it runs the gamut from giving some of that money back to redistributing it to going back to the voters and saying: 'What do you want us to do with it?' And a committee of the community has to recommend that to the board, as far as I'm concerned."

If approved, Oversight Committee and board members also would receive other supportive documents for a period of time, which would examine the certificate of participation and district capital funds in more detail.

"It's all laid out right there," Ricker said. "And if it isn't there, there is backup documentation for anybody and everybody who wants to see it and hasn't."

He said the revised Proposition P budget is more beneficial for the community be-cause more people will have a chance to look at and understand it.

"And they may not agree with how it all came about. And that's OK," he said. "We're moving ahead and we're not moving ahead in isolation or with our heads in the sand. We have a clearer understanding."

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