COLUMBIA — Property owners in the Columbia School District will pay slightly more in property taxes this year than last to support local public schools.
The Columbia Board of Education set the district’s tax rate at $5.40 per $100 assessed valuation, a 52-cent increase from last year. In April, voters approved a bond issue and a levy that raised the highest tax rate the board can set to $6.40.
“We cut a lot of items from our budget in the past few years,” Michelle Baumstark, the district’s communications director, said. “We passed the levies to bring back those items that we cut.”
Linda Quinley, the district’s chief financial officer, explained how the $5.40 tax rate breaks down:
Teacher’s fund, $2.70
“This money pays for people whose jobs require a teaching certificate,” Quinley said. Thirty-six cents of each dollar the district collects in property taxes goes toward salaries and benefits. More money in the teacher’s fund, a result of the April levy, meant that the district could hire 20 to 25 new teachers this year in an effort to bring down class sizes.
Incidental fund, $1.63
“Everyone and everything you need to run a school district, excluding teachers.” That’s how Quinley described the incidental fund. Buses, staff and supplies all fall into this category.
“When the district put the bond issue before voters, we promised to spend the money on bringing down class sizes and putting technology in classrooms,” Quinley said. “We’ve invested $2 million in getting computers, laptops and iPads in the hands of students and teachers.”
Paying down debt, 92 cents
The district issues general bonds to pay for construction, renovation, remodeling and technology. Quinley said the district has plans to build two new elementary schools. Since the bond levy passed in April, the district can issue more bonds to help pay for these buildings.
Capital projects, 15 cents
These are projects the district can fund without having to borrow money. Examples include a xylophone for the high school band, Smartboards and playground equipment for students with special needs.
Setting the rate
In Missouri, local boards of education fund public schools primarily by taxing property owners. School districts pay counties a small fee to collect the tax from residents who own homes, agricultural property such as fields, commercial property and personal property such as cars and boats.
Every other year, the Missouri State Tax Commission requires a reassessment. Homes are assessed based on 19 percent of their value. For example, if an assessor determines that your house is worth $100,000, your assesses value would be $19,000.
The Missouri Department of Education requires local school boards to set the property tax rate by Sept. 1 of each year. Boards must hold a public meeting before they set the rate. The Columbia Board of Education made its decision Tuesday.