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Mehlville sets informational meeting on options for early childhood site

An informational meeting about options for the site of a new early childhood center that are being considered by the Mehlville Board of Education will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, at the Mehlville Senior High School cafeteria, 3200 Lemay Ferry Road.

The meeting comes at the request of the Proposition P Oversight Committee, which recently asked administrators to seek public input before potentially deviating from the Proposition P plan to use the current St. John's Elementary School site as the location for a new early childhood center.

Board members were scheduled to hear a presentation about the early childhood plan option public engagement process during their first meeting of 2004 Monday night — after the Call went to press.

Administrators have reported that razing the St. John's building on Will Avenue and using the land for an early childhood center poses cost, site development and aesthetic concerns. The early childhood center is the final project that will be constructed as part of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program.

Mehlville voters approved a 49-cent tax-rate increase in November 2000 to fund Proposition P, then estimated to cost nearly $68.4 million. The Board of Education this fall approved a revised budget totaling more than $86.7 million for the building program.

Mehlville administrators first informed Oversight Committee members of their concerns about the Will Avenue site Nov. 25. However, the board had voted in closed session Nov. 17 to begin negotiations with the Lechner Realty Group for a listing agreement for the St. John's site. During a closed session Dec. 15, the board voted to approve a 90-day exclusive listing contract with Lechner Realty for the St. John's site.

Board members will wait until input has been gathered at the informational meeting before they decide whether to sell the St. John's property, according to Superintendent Tim Ricker.

Keeping the center at the St. John's site, building a center on either the Mehlville Senior High or Beasley Elementary campuses or purchasing additional land are some of the options administrators presented to Oversight Committee members during the Nov. 25 meeting. Those options will be presented to the public Feb. 11.

Residents will have a chance to fill out surveys after an informational presentation, according to Ricker. Residents also will be able to visit stations, set up throughout the Mehlville Senior High cafeteria, explaining the options. No period will be set aside for speakers from the public.

In another matter Monday night, board members were scheduled to be updated on the district's cash-flow situation over winter break.

The school district received a $15.892 million payment from the county in property tax revenue Dec. 31. After receiving the payment, administrators did not have to execute a $750,000 tax anticipation note with Midwest BankCentre. Board members unanimously authorized the note, if needed, last month to prevent a severe cash-flow problem during the winter break.

After several months of receiving smaller-than-expected payments and having to apply for an unprecedented amount of tax-anticipation notes — with six notes resulting in a net borrowed amount of $11.75 million — it appears that the district now can anticipate normal payments from the county on a more regular basis, Ricker told the Call.

County payments were delayed in 2003 because the county assessor's office had to adjust to a new tax-calculating system for governmental bodies, according to previous administrator reports.

"In talking with all of the other superintendents in the area, we're all glad we're getting the money, because when you're almost 80 percent locally funded, you need it as soon as you can get it," Ricker said. "The thing that we will probably do some time in the future is ... sit down with people at the county and talk about how that affected all of us."

As of Dec. 31, the district had received a total of $21.627 million in property tax payments from the county, about $1.56 million less than what the district had received on the same date in 2002, which was $23.185 million.

The district's assistant superintendent of finance and chief financial officer, Randy Charles, was scheduled to report to board members how much interest the district paid on the tax-anticipation notes at the Jan. 12 meeting.

Board members originally were scheduled to review contract adjustments with the McCarthy Construction Co., the Proposition P construction manager, and Dickinson Hussman Architects, the Proposition P architectural firm.

Ricker told the Call, however, the contract adjustments were taken off of the Jan. 12 board agenda because administrators still were "negotiating" with McCarthy and Dickinson Hussman. The contract adjustments should appear on the Tuesday, Jan. 27, meeting agenda, Ricker said.

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