Liberty School Board Approves Operating Levy Increase

Posted: August 21, 2010 in Clay County, Education, Liberty Missouri School District
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I received this from Scott Connor on 8/20. I am concerned about the choice to increase the operating levy right now. The vote was only 4-3 and Scott Connor, Mattie Ransom, and Carlin Walker were no votes. Mr. Walker and Mr. Connor were both endorsed by ClayCoMOPolitics in the last school board election (a friendly note, had the voters elected Craig Porter, the school district would be making tougher choices right now). As Mr. Connor points out below “I believe we need to look for alternatives to raising taxes and find ways to do more with less, just like many of us are doing in our own homes and businesses.” As someone who works in education, and someone who was laid off from an area school district last year because of budget cuts, I get it, I really do. But at some point we have to draw the line and say enough is simply enough. Everyone is looking at tightening down their purse strings, it should be no different for the Liberty School District. The biggest problem I see in education is the same thing I see at the national level. Folks we are really in a mess right now, the economy is not getting any better next year, just looking for more money is not the answer! I would encourage Liberty Patrons to get involved and attend a board meeting when they can. I’m just as guilty as anybody, I don’t get to them either. If the Liberty School Board is considering a levy increase in 2011 we need to know why and start asking our school board tough questions.

Below is what Mr. Connor sent me through email correspondence.

During the Monday, Aug 16th LPS BOE meeting I voted for the 15-cent increase to our “debt service” levy…this measure passed unanimously with a 7-0 vote.  The debt service levy increase was approved by voters in the April-2010 election so voting for it was, in my opinion, a “no brainer”.

I then voted against the proposal that we increase our “operating” levy, which ultimately passed with a 4-3 vote.  The $4.90 “cap” on this levy was approved by voters in 1984, and as a result of Monday night’s vote we have reached that limit (it was 4.8619 before the vote so the increase was less than 4-cents).  I believe we need to look for alternatives to raising taxes and find ways to do more with less, just like many of us are doing in our own homes and businesses.

The fact is that our community has seen levy/tax increases for the past three years in a row.  As a fiscal conservative I believe we need to continue to look for ways to save money wherever we can and avoid tax increases whenever possible.  This particular measure will increase our district’s revenues by about $250,000 (out of a $100,000,000 budget)…or one-fourth of one-percent of the overall budget.  In my opinion, this isn’t enough of a revenue boost to justify asking the community to accept yet another tax increase.  It’s not a lot of money for the typical home/property owner (about $16 per year for a person who owns a $200K house and $20K worth of personal property), however I strongly believe we need to be very careful how often we come to the taxpayers for additional tax dollars, and do so only when we have a solid, well-communicated plan for exactly how the money will be used.

Having said that, our district may be asking for a levy increase (maybe as early as spring 2011) to pay for buildings / construction needed to house our ever increasing student population.  This year’s graduating class had 652 members…our incoming kindergarten class is over 970.  Four of our youngest five classes have more than 900 students (K, 1st, 2nd and 4th grades…3rd grade is over 800).  This “wave” of students has already hit our elementary schools and will be in our middle, junior high and high schools before we know it.  Our overall enrollment has topped 11,000, and future classes will likely be 1,000+ students each.  We are opening a new high school and recently built Kellybrook elementary…and we will need even more space as we move forward.  We continue to evaluate all of our options for meeting these challenges.

In a nutshell I believe the Administration’s and the BOE’s job when considering tax increases is to:

  • KNOW what the money is being used for before we ask for it,
  • PLAN for the increases in advance, and
  • COMMUNICATE the alternatives.

One part of our community will be unhappy when we vote against levy increases…another portion of the community will be unhappy when we vote for them.  I am ignoring the “political” side of these issues and will simply continue to prioritize issues that directly support student classrooms and will vote for tax increases only when I feel the above criteria have been met.

If you have any comments or suggestions for me I’d like to hear from you. Thanks for “listening”, and for being a supporter of our excellent school district.

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