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Frank's motion to place tax hike on ballot dies for lack of second

Board President Rita Diekemper last week did not support placing a 75-cent tax increase on the April ballot.

Board member Karl Frank made a motion to accept the recommendation of the long-range planning committee, but his motion died due to lack of support from other board members.
October 19, 2005 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A motion by Mehlville Board of Education member Karl Frank Jr. to place a 75-cent operational tax-rate increase on the April 4 ballot died last week for lack of a second.

Frank made his motion Oct. 13 after the district's Long Range Planning Committee presented a revised Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, or CSIP, to the Board of Education during a meeting at Wohlwend Elementary School.

The plan encompasses four areas — academic achievement, technology, facilities and finance — and the committee recommended a 50-cent or 75-cent operational tax-rate increase to purchase textbooks, replace buses, lower class sizes, retain staff and improve technology.

Frank's motion called for the school board to accept the committee's plan as presented and to place a 75-cent operational tax-rate increase before voters next April.

In making his motion, Frank said he believed any tax-rate increase placed before voters "will go down in a resounding defeat,'' but "I believe that placing a tax levy on the ballot may be the only means necessary to supply this Board of Education with the wake-up call necessary to truly begin to move the Mehlville School District forward ...''

The Long Range Planning Committee was established last fall to propose revisions to the district's CSIP for the Board of Education to consider. The 25-member panel is comprised of district employees, a retired teacher, students and parents. Nearly 300 community volunteers who served on 14 "action teams'' assisted the committee in formulating its recommendations.

The Board of Education will consider the Long Range Planning Committee's recommendations when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

After committee members presented their recommendations to the Board of Education, Frank praised the committee's work, saying, "I take my hat off to the teachers, students and parents who put together this genuinely good and worthwhile plan ... As a member of the Board of Educa-tion, I sincerely promise that your endeavor to make Mehlville a better school district for our children and our community will not go unnoticed.

"However, it is no secret that I have been very skeptical of the motivations behind the formation of the Long Range Planning Committee, as well as the process in how it all came to be,'' he said, adding no one could deny that placing some type of tax-rate hike on a future ballot was not a predetermined outcome of the committee "by its founders.''

"The financial information campaign geared up a long time ago, a very long time ago. It is also well known that I've been an outspoken advocate against Mehlville placing a tax levy on the ballot. And it's not because I am against properly funding public education; after all, I did vote in favor of Proposition P, but because I know that this public demands all-encompassing fiduciary responsibility with their investment and that they want accountability when it doesn't happen that way,'' Frank said.

"I'm not against putting a levy on the ballot because I believe that Mehlville is not in need of one, but because while I strive for the ideal public education institution, I pride myself on being a realist that has my ear to the ground. Mark my words, placing a tax levy on the ballot right now will go down in a resounding defeat. A tax levy is hard enough to pass when you have everything going right for you — great public relations, great districtwide academic performance and top-notch fiscal management of past projects such as Proposition P. A tax levy in the Mehlville School District is extremely hard to pass. Throw in a tough economy, high unemployment, record gas prices, increased property taxes and upcoming high heating bills and you have almost my 100 percent guarantee that Mehlville will waste its time and money on a failed attempt at a tax levy ...,'' he said.

Frank continued, "I believe the effort to push forward with a tax levy to be misguided. Again, not because it was not well intentioned, but because it invokes taking any means necessary to achieve what I believe is an unobtainable end; and completely ignoring both the controllable and uncontrollable forces that we at Mehlville are up against. However, contrary to everything else I have said until this point, I believe that placing a tax levy on the ballot may be the only means necessary to supply this Board of Education with the wake-up call necessary to truly begin to move the Mehlville School District forward as outlined in both The Frank Plan and this Comprehensive School Improvement Program as presented by the LRP.

"If I am wrong and a tax levy passes, I will sit here at the very next board meeting and humbly eat my words. This is a risk I am willing to take as long as we can take certain and definitive steps to minimize the cost of placing a tax levy on the ballot. All said, I do not wish to be an obstacle standing in the way of what a few of these great community members have done to complete this process,'' he said.

"Therefore, I will go ahead and move to accept the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan as presented tonight to the Board of Education by the Long Range Planning Committee, and I further move to accept the Long Range Planning Committee's recommendation of placing a 75-cent operating tax levy on the ballot on the first Tuesday of April 2006 ...,'' Frank concluded.

Board member Ken Leach asked, "Karl, will you shave your face if it passes? Shave your beard?''

Frank replied, "I promise to shave both my beard and my head.''

Board President Rita Diekemper said, "OK, I don't know if we're prepared to take action this evening ... Is there a second to that motion?''

No second was forthcoming, and Diekemper declared the motion dead for lack of a second.

Thanking committee members for their hard work, board Secretary Mike Heins said, "I've watched the process and Proposition K, when we passed part of a tax-revenue enhancement to the district; I've worked alongside of Rita and several others, Cindy, and when we passed Proposition P, we had a very difficult challenge to educate the community on what our needs were in the district.

"We don't take tax levies or — lightly in the district and we'll study this over the next couple of weeks prior to our next meeting and we'll make the best decision we can make and try to move this district forward,'' he added.

Board member Cindy Christopher said, "Actually, I just want to make a clarification, I think. It was my understanding that the proposals of the 50 cents and 75 cents, that those were actually items to get us back to where we were. They didn't essentially include any significant part of this plan that was presented this evening. Am I correct?''

South Area Superintendent Keith Klusmeyer, who served as a facilitator and co-chair of the Long Range Planning Committee, said, "That is correct. That was the intention of the Finance Action Team. That was the conclusion they reached, just to stabilize the budget, basically.''

Diekemper interjected, "And to account for the loss of deseg funds.''

Klusmeyer said, "Exactly.''

Leach said he believed that any proposal placed before voters must be specific about how the money will be spent.

Superintendent Tim Ricker said, "This is probably an important time for me to comment. It is not the responsibility of the Long Range Planning Committee nor the administration nor employees of the district to decide pennies of a levy that are put on ballot language. That is the sole responsibility of the seven members of the Board of Education. So as you think about what your interests are as elected representatives of the school district and of our community, you will decide ultimately what the language is, what the pennies are for, where the pennies go, how it's spent and when it comes to the public. So this group has done yeoman's work in what they've been asked to do and charged to do over the last year or so ...

"But this is your responsibility, and we are at your disposal to provide you the information to be able to do exactly, Ken, what you're asking ...,'' Ricker said.

Leach said, "Well, then I'm guess I'm asking for the information, if you can present it to us where you think it would be best used in a detailed format to where I could then vote with (a) clean conscience that it's going to go to the right places ...''

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