Lewis County C-1: Proposition K.I.D.S. - (part 2)

August 03, 2023

Lewis County C-1: Proposition K.I.D.S. to be on August 8th Ballot This is a continuation from last week’s article/interview with the superintendent of Lewis County C-1, John French, regarding Proposition KIDS (Keep Improving District Schools) which will be on the ballot as a special election next Tuesday, August 8, 2023. The district is seeking a 39 cent increase in the district’s operating tax levy through the Tax Year 2042 to address needed repairs and improvements to the existing facilities. This temporary increase does have a sunset in 2042, which means the 39 cent special levy would go away at that time.
PNJ: How can an individual know exactly how much the 39 cent increase will cause their taxes to go up? JF: To provide a simple example: if someone owns a home that is assessed by the county at $100,000 (that is assessed value and not market value), then they would see an increase in their annual taxes of $390, which would be about $7.50 per week or $1.07 per day. When you realize that, you realize that you are talking about an amount that is way less than the cost of a single 16oz bottle of soda per day. PNJ: So, what if my house is worth $200,000, does that mean I would be paying an additional $780 per year? JF: Again, I need to make sure you understand that it is based on Assessed Value and not what you believe your house would be worth if you sold it. So, when you say worth $200,000, it depends if that is the assessed value or not! According to tax-rates.org, the median assessed property value in Lewis County is $79,400. In other words a $200,000 assessed property would be on the high end of all properties in the county, but if your home is really assessed by the county assessor at $200,000, then that would be accurate, but you really have to make sure that you are using your Assessed Value. The actual formula to figure your exact tax increase would be to take your most recent tax bill and get the Assessed Value of your home and then divide that number by 100 and then multiply by .39.

PNJ: If someone wanted you to assist them in calculating their expected increase if Proposition KIDS passes, could they contact you to get help with that? JF: Absolutely, I would be more than happy to calculate their tax increase with them or answer any other questions they may have. All they need is a recent property tax bill and I can show them. They can call me at the school at 573-209-3217. If I am not immediately available, just leave a message with Mrs. Gonnerman or Mrs. Kramer and I will get back to them as quickly as possible.

PNJ: There has been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about teacher pay. Minimum wage has increased in Missouri over the last few years as well. Will the funds from Proposition KIDS ensure school staff get pay increases? JF: Proposition KIDS is not a tax increase for teacher or staff salaries; however, it will have a positive impact on the district attempting to keep pace with increases in pay. The state legislature has been discussing increasing the minimum teacher pay, but has currently not done so. They have created a temporary grant program to incentivize districts to get all teachers paid a minimum of $38,000 per year. Lewis County C-1 was awarded the grant last year and will be again this year. Highland has also tried to assure that non-certificated salaries have kept pace with the minimum wage increases. So, back to your question, Proposition KIDS would help position the district to save money on costly repairs to deteriorating old equipment. The savings from having more efficient equipment and spending less on repairs will free up some money in the budget to help the district continue to try to raise salaries. PNJ: Is there still Federal Relief money from the COVID pandemic available for the district to use to cover these projects? JF: There are still ESSER funds allocated to the district and LCC1 is planning to utilize these funds for the projects we have discussed; however, there are not enough funds to cover the costs associated with all of these things. The federal relief dollars are 1-time funds, so they can’t really be used to plan for raises. The money needs to be spent on 1-time expenses. Recent estimates the district received for HVAC replacement would call for more money than we have in relief funds to complete HVAC replacement at just one of the buildings.

PNJ: So, Highland will be using the ESSER funds along with the tax dollars from Proposition KIDS to complete the improvement and repair projects we have discussed? JF: Exactly! The district does not have a way to do all of these projects without the passage of Proposition KIDS and will likely only be able to partially replace the HVAC system in only 1 of our buildings with the relief dollars.

PNJ: Is there anything else that you think the community should know about Proposition KIDS? JF: I just want everyone to know that the board is trying to be financially sound in their decisions on facilities improvements. While the plans may not address everyone’s wants, they do address our existing facilities issues. The board is not looking to build some lavish expansion, the funds are being requested for needed repairs to existing facilities, to replace outdated and failing equipment, as well as to address safety at the district. Reminder that Proposition KIDS (Keep Improving District Schools) will be on the ballot on Tuesday, August 8, 2023 - don’t forget to vote!