The Southern Boone School District is trying to catch up with its growing student body by adding a 40-cent tax increase to the April 2 ballot, the money from which would go toward an addition to the district’s primary school and funding salaries for new teachers.
Because of rapid student growth, Superintendent Chris Felmlee said the district is having trouble maintaining a low student-to-teacher ratio.
“We’re known for smaller class sizes and just an excellent overall education program,” Felmlee said. “If the community wants us to be able to continue to offer that, then I really need their help.”
Voters will be asked to approve a 40-cent property tax levy increase per $100 of assessed valuation.
Additionally, Felmlee said he would ask the Southern Boone School Board in August to increase the debt service levy by 25 cents. If both increases are approved, this would make the total property tax increase 65 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The 25-cent increase will not be on the April ballot as it would be used to pay debt on projects already approved by voters.
With a 65-cent increase, the owner of a home with a market value of $150,000 would pay an additional $15.44 a month in property taxes, according to documents on Felmlee’s blog.
The 40-cent tax increase on Tuesday’s ballot would allow the district to add a two-story wing to the Southern Boone Primary School for additional classrooms and new teaching positions, Felmlee said.
Of the 40-cent increase, 30 cents would provide $6 million toward funding the primary school addition. The other 10 cents would provide $150,000 to hire three teachers, though Felmlee said the district needed at least seven new hires for the 2019-20 school year.
Felmee said the addition to the primary school would include 17 classrooms and six additional teacher offices. The new classrooms would allow for additional first- and second-grade classrooms and for relocation of the remaining four early childhood classrooms to the primary school from the middle school, which include two preschool classrooms and two early childhood special education classrooms.
The tax increase “sets in motion something that’s going to affect every grade level over the next five to six years,” Felmlee said.
The district has seen enrollment increase from 1,682 in 2016-17 to 1,796 in 2018-19, a total of 114 students. During the same time period, the district added 42 employees, according to an informational handout on the ballot.
If the ballot issue is not approved, the district would still have to seek voter approval to raise taxes to purchase or lease trailers, Felmlee said.
The 25-cent debt service levy, if approved by the school board, would allow the district to pay its construction debt more quickly, Felmlee said.
The only way for the district to accelerate paying its debt to fund the new buildings and other projects, he said, is by increasing the district’s debt service payments.
The increase would raise the current debt service tax rate of $1.43 to about $1.69, within the board’s legal limit of about $2.31.
The district’s last bond election was in April of 2018. The $4.75 million bond issue funded construction projects, including the new elementary school gymnasium, central office building and high school baseball and softball fields.
If the April 2 ballot issue is approved, Felmlee said, the next no-tax increase bond election would be in 2021 and would focus on the middle school.
The 2021 ballot issue for $13 million would allow the district to focus on overcrowding in the elementary and middle schools by expanding the middle school, he said.
“I want to move fifth grade from the elementary and put them here in this (middle school) building,” Felmlee said. “If I move fifth grade out of the elementary, that gives them room to grow for years to come.”
Felmlee said the addition would allow fifth and sixth grades to have one wing of the building and a separate wing for seventh and eighth grades.
The 2021 bond issue would trigger another no-tax increase bond election in 2025, which would focus on the high school. Felmlee said he wants to focus on improving vocational programs and classes, which would include a new wing to the building so students don’t have to walk between buildings to get to the separate vocational building.
Supervising editor is Daphne Psaledakis.