Lewis County C-1
This week, I am going to focus on answering questions that I have received in regards to the Lewis County C-1 School District and Proposition KIDS (Keep Improving District Schools). On June 2, the LCC1 School District is asking district taxpayers to increase the operating levy of the school district by 80 cents to help meet the ever-increasing operating expenses of the district.
What percent of increase is that on our taxes? The percent of increase is 22.65 percent (eighty cents divided by $3.5319). Please keep in mind that it has been over 15 years since the district has truly asked for tax levy increase. During this timeframe, the District’s expenses on basically everything have increased and in most cases much more than 22.65 percent. For example, the cost to the District for employee’s health insurance premiums has increased by more 40 percent in just the past three years and the Board of Education was not even able to cover the full increase going into next year. The cost of software, computer hardware, textbooks, food service, fuel for buses, and the cost of new buses have all risen substantially over the last 15 years. The district is not asking for this money to build a new building or do some major project, it is simply to cover current operating expenses of the district.
Twenty-two percent sounds like a lot, how much will that raise my taxes? For most Lewis County homeowners, they will see an increase in their monthly house payment of less than $12.50! According to Data USA (https://bit.ly/3giUzst), the median property value for Lewis County is $85,500. Using the median as an example: A person with a home value of $85,500 would have a residential assessed value of $16,245. The tax increase for this example would only be $129.96 per year or only $10.83 per month.
What if the district hadn’t built the new Track and Football Field – would it still need this increase? YES, the renovations that have taken place at the Track and Football Field were all part of a refinancing of outstanding leases the district already had in place. The simplest way to explain this is to use an example that may hit home for everyone. Say you wanted to build a deck on your house and you go to the bank and ask for home equity loan or to refinance your house so you can afford to build the deck. The bank extends your loan and gives you the money to build a new deck. This money can’t be used for a vacation or to buy a car or anything other than the home improvement. It adds value to your home and you just increased the number of years you would be paying on your home. The District did the same thing! We refinanced leases we had and got a lower interest rate. By doing this we extended the number of years we would be paying on the lease. The money has gone to improve and replace parking lots, electrical panels, and other safety concerns determined as the highest priority needs of the district by community and district members on our school improvement committee. This summer we are installing air-conditioning in the HS gym – still with the lease refinance proceeds! So, we could not use that money for anything other than Capital Improvements and regardless we would still need the increase in tax levy to cover operating expenses.
Can’t the district just cut some things instead of raising the tax levy? Over 80 percent of the district’s operating expenses come from the salaries and benefits of its employees. This means that the only way to reduce costs significantly is to reduce staff. The district has been reducing staff over the past 6 years whenever the district could afford to do so. Honestly, the district cannot reduce staff anymore without drastically reducing the education opportunities currently offered to the students of Lewis County C-1. If you look on the Vote YES for KIDS Facebook page, I have shared charts to show how the district has continually cut teaching staff to try to stay in line with the drop in student enrollment.
If the District is losing students, then shouldn’t it be able to cut more teachers? The district has attempted to cut staff whenever possible. Sometimes it is not legal for the district to cut certain positions because we are required to provide certain services by statute. In some other cases, we receive state or federal money to pay for certain positions and cutting those positions would not change our local tax needs. Finally, as our student numbers they don’t all disappear from the same grade or class. Therefore, it may still not be feasible to cut any specific positions.
Why does it matter that student numbers are decreasing – it seems like that would cost less for the district? As a school district loses student enrollment numbers, the state funding drops significantly. This is because the state’s foundation formula is heavily dependent upon the student average daily attendance rates. Losing 30 students amounts to the district losing approximately $220,500 from state funding. Over the course of the last 8 years, the district has lost about 150 students, so that means we have lost a little over $1.1 million dollars in state revenue.
How does LCC1 compare to other Northeast Missouri schools? Lewis County’s tax rate is one of the lowest tax rates in the entire Northeast region. If Proposition KIDS passes, Lewis County will still not be at the top of the list. The increase would put Lewis County in the middle of the top half of schools in the region. Charts displaying this comparison are available on the YES for KIDS Facebook page.
How does Teacher Pay at LCC1 compare to surrounding schools? LCC1 has one of the lowest salary schedules for teachers in the Northeast Region and it is hurting our district to compete for good teacher candidates and to keep the good teachers we have. The district lost several teachers at the end of this year to other surrounding school districts. LCC1 has also been very conservative in providing raises in the last few years due to the decreases in state funding, which has caused us to continue to lose ground when comparing to other districts.
With everyone stuck at home due to COVID-19, why now? Actually, the LCC1 Board of Education has been discussing the District’s need for an increase in the operating levy for the past few years. The issue was put on the ballot prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting us and the election was supposed to happen in April, but was delayed by the Governor until June 2. The truth is, the district needed the tax levy increase prior to the COVID-19 closures, but the funding cuts that have taken place make this even more important as the district has already seen a reduction in funds through withholds by the state. There are more withholds expected for both next school year and the following school year.
While this article may not answer all of the questions out there, I hope it does answer several of them. I would be happy to take any phone calls to answer further questions or ask your questions on the YES for KIDS Facebook Page. Call me, John French, at 573-209-3217.
Lewis County C-1
The Canton R-V School District administration, faculty, and staff would like to express our congratulations to the Class of 2020. Despite everything that has happened in the past three months, you have raised to the occasion. We know that your final spring semester did not unfold the way you had imagined. We understand the significance that events like athletics, activities, recognitions, social interactions, and celebrations play during the final months of school. We also know that you are resilient and will meet the challenges you face ahead in your journey through life. Congratulations to the graduating class of 2020!
Canton R-V School District will be holding commencement for the Class of 2020 on July 19, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. in the Canton R-V Gymnasium. As we get closer to July 19, 2020 we will release details regarding the procedures for the ceremony. Until that time, we will be preparing a plan that will maintain a safe environment for our students and their families. There will be some significant changes to the traditional ceremony normally held at Canton R-V, however, we will continue to focus on making this event special for the graduates.
Canton R-V Schools will continue our current food distribution system through June 30, 2020.
Normally, the Canton R-V School District does not hold a summer school session. However, because of the extended closure and disruption to learning we explored the option of hosting a summer school session in July. We conducted a “Summer School Interest Survey” through our District Facebook page and only received responses from approximately twenty-percent (20%) of the students district-wide. Because of the low interest level, Canton R-V will not be hosting a summer school session.
With that being said, Canton R-V School District is focused on re-opening school in August. Currently, the 2020-2021 school year is slated to begin on August 24, 2020. The Missouri State Board of Education has granted schools an exemption for the starting date and we will be exploring this issue in the upcoming days. Because we understand that there will be ground to make up due to the COVID-19 closure and the lack of summer school, the administration and Board of Education will look at options of starting school earlier in August. We are currently asking for community input regarding potential start dates through a survey on the District’s Facebook page.
The administration is busy working on details for the beginning of school in August. We are in the process of exploring several different plans for what school could look like. These plans range from a traditional start, to beginning with multiple new procedures to monitor for communicable diseases like COVID-19 or other flu-like illnesses as students arrive in the morning. Also, we are looking at modifying classrooms to incorporate greater social distancing and to allow for a better system of remote learning should the need arise. We will update all of our students and families by July 1 about the start date and any other important information regarding the beginning of the school year.
In conclusion, I would personally like to thank everyone for their flexibility this spring. We had so many people step up and do some really amazing things to support our students and community during this difficult time. It truly is not just a great day, but “A Great Time to Be A Tiger”.
Mr. Jesse Uhlmeyer
Canton R-V School District
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