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Prop P budget revision a 30.3 percent increase over original plan


December 21, 2005 - Third in a series

By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

After the Mehlville Board of Education's approval last week of the final revision to the Proposition P districtwide building im-provement program budget, the Call continues its review of the history of the project that dates back to late 1999.

The board voted 5-2 Dec. 15 to increase the Proposition P districtwide building im-provement program budget to more than $89.1 million. Board members Karl Frank Jr. and Ken Leach were opposed.

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

However, the final budget revision raises the Proposition P budget to $89,137,440 — a roughly 30.3 percent increase — more than $20.7 million — over the nearly $68.4 million building improvement program en-visioned in 2000.

The third installment of the chronology of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program, based on Mehlville documentation and published accounts in the Call, picks up in March 2000:

March 2000 — Attendance at Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities meetings and a series of building-level meetings has exceeded 3,200 people, far surpassing the expectations of district officials. About 3,270 people have attended CACF meetings and building-level meetings at schools throughout the district with four neighborhood meetings remaining.

April 2000 — CACF members will recommend moving the district's Early Childhood Center and bus facility from their current locations on the Mehlville Senior High School campus. CACF members decided they will include those recommendations in their final report that will be presented to the Board of Education this summer, according to CACF Chairman Dan Fowler, a former Board of Education member.

While the CACF has decided to recommend moving the Early Childhood Center and bus facility from the high school campus, "no decision will be made as to what priority this would fall under until the committee reviews the needs of the 16 other school district buildings,'' Fowler told the Call.

April 2000 — CACF members will recommend a new Early Childhood Center be built on the site of the old St. John's Elementary School on Will Avenue. CACF members decided they will include that recommendation in the final report they will present to the Board of Education this summer, Fowler said.

"After careful review and consideration, the CACF will recommend that the old St. John's Elementary School, now being used by St. Louis Community College, be torn down and a new Early Childhood Center to be built on the site,'' Fowler told the Call. "The Mehlville School District has a real need to offer a tuition-based program for preschool children. This site is large enough to build such a facility and expand it at a later date, if the need arises.''

The estimated cost of demolishing the St. John's facility and constructing a new Early Childhood Center is $3.75 million.

May 2000 —Responses to a recent telephone survey show growing support for a bond issue to repair Mehl-ville's aging facilities, but Fowler urged "a high note of caution.'' The survey, conducted by Unicom-Attitude Research Co., shows 60.5 percent of respondents would support a $50 million bond issue to improve the district's buildings.

"We have some phenomenal results in the survey,'' Fowl-er told committee members. "We're showing public support right at 60 percent for a bond issue if an election were held today, but I do want to say this: A high note of caution, we've seen good numbers before and things have happened in the last month, two or three weeks of a campaign, that have caused us to lose. We have a lot of work ahead of us between now and the time that the Board of Education decides to submit a proposal (to voters). So while it looks good, a high note of caution.''

May 2000 — The CACF soon will begin prioritizing the district's facility needs and those upgrades could result in a $50 million to $70 million bond issue for the first phase of improvements.

"I would not be surprised to see a $50 million to $70 million bond issue in phase one,'' Fowler told the Call.

Committee members agreed to recommend to the Board of Education that Bernard Elementary School be razed and replaced with a new middle school. Besides calling for the construction of a fourth middle school, the committee will recommend upgrades be performed at the district's three existing middle schools so the buildings can accommodate sixth- through eighth-grade pupils.

"By removing sixth grade from the existing 11 elementary schools and placing them in four middle schools, Mehlville will be able to reduce the number of elementary schools to 10,'' Fowler said. "By moving to a fourth middle school, there will be no need to add additional classrooms on to our existing crowded elementary schools.

"The middle school decision allows the district to kill two birds with one stone, eliminating the need for additional classroom space on the elementary level and providing middle school facilities as directed by the Mehlville Board of Education in its vision statement,'' he added.

May 2000 — Fowler believes the CACF will complete the first part of its mission May 31 with the recommendation of a $70 million bond issue to fund the first phase of districtwide building improvements. For the owner of a $100,000 home, the cost of a $70 million bond issue would be about 28 cents a day.

"That equates to about one gum ball a day out of a gum ball machine,'' Fowler told the Call. "Based on that information, I believe we will see a recommendation to the Board of Education on a proposal of about $70 million.''

Committee members May 24 were presented six options ranging from $31.7 million to $86.6 million for the first phase of districtwide building improvements. Committee members were about evenly divided between Option No. 5, which carries a price tag of nearly $62.8 million, and Option No. 6, which carries a price tag of about $86.6 million.

"The CACF made a monumental decision in proposing a ballot measure that will address most of the critical needs in the Mehlville School District,'' Fowler said of the May 24 meeting. "Part of the CACF committee recommended Option 5 at $62,766,190, and the other part of the group wanted Option 6 at $86,604,610. I believe at the next meeting on May 31, we will see a compromise.

"One of the things we heard as each working group made their presentation was the desire to keep the tax increase under $100 a year for anyone owning a home worth $100,000,'' Fowler said.

After discussions with the district's bond consultant, A.G. Edwards & Sons, district officials have determined that a $70 million bond issue would keep the additional taxes on a $100,000 home at $99.75 per year — 28 cents per day.

May 2000 — A recommendation by a citizens' panel for a $70.2 million bond issue to address the Mehlville School District's building needs "should come as no surprise to the Board of Education,'' according to Fowler.

The CACF on May 31 agreed to recommend that the Board of Education place a $70.2 million bond issue on the Nov. 7 ballot to fund the first phase of building im-provements at 17 district buildings. The panel's recommendation will be formally presented to the Board of Edu-cation on June 19.

The committee also recommended the board place on the ballot a leasehold revenue bond issue, which would require approval by a simple majority of voters. A four-sevenths majority would be required to approve a general obligation bond issue.

A tax rate increase of 49 cents per $100 of assessed valuation would be required for the $70.2 million leasehold revenue bond issue — compared to 46 cents per $100 for general obligation bonds. The committee also recommended placing the proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot. If placed on the ballot and approved by voters in November, the leasehold revenue bonds would be retired in 20 years — 2021.

The annual cost of the $70.2 million leasehold revenue bond issue would be $93.10 for the owner of a $100,000 home — just slightly less than a previous projection re-leased by the school district. For the owner of a $150,000 home, the annual cost would be $139.65.

The chronology continues next week.

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