Park Hill tax levy increase decision looming

The Park Hill Board of Education will wait until next month to decide if it will place a levy increase on the April election ballot.  Last month, Superintendent Dr. Scott Springston and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paul Kelly presented the Board with a possible plan and time line for funding of its Future Learners Project (FLiP) and other initiatives. The Board is expected to vote on whether or not to place a potential 32-cent levy increase on the April 5, 2014 election ballot at its Jan. 9 meeting. Springston said not only would the levy increase fund the FLiP program, which upon final roll-out would give one-to-one daily computer access to each student in the district beyond elementary school, but also would fund security upgrades. Last year, the district underwent a safety and security evaluation, which recommended upgrades such as the establishment of one secure entrance to the district high schools. Kelly again presented the list of cost-cutting measures the district has implemented over the last few years, which added up to $12.4 million in savings, which included the $1.5 million lost in the rollback of the district levy in previous years. If the 32- cent increase was approved, the average 2014 cost to owners of a $200,000 home in the district would be $37. Kelly said the district would phase in the increase as needed over several years, with full implementation not expected until the 2017-18 school year. The Board also discussed a resolution outlining the district’s stance on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and tax abatement for presentation to legislators and local government. While the district wishes to be a good partner in community development, it is also funded by taxes and must preserve its source of revenue. The Board discussed it would be more inclined to favor projects featuring commercial property rather than residential with 15 years or less of tax abatement on the property. Additionally, there should be no more than 50 percent abatement or diversion of taxes and no negative economic impact to the school district. A legislative position statement was approved by the Board for the 2014 Missouri General Assembly stating the district’s priority was to support full funding of the Foundation formula and to maintain the integrity of the current formula, avoiding adjustments that would alter the distribution of funds. The district will oppose any legislation altering the current public school retirement systems or any bills attempting to authorize open enrollment. Legislation that could reduce or divert revenue from public schools, such as tuition tax credits or vouchers will also be opposed. Also at the meeting, the district calendar committee presented its proposed school year calendar for 2014-25, with the first day of school on Aug. 13. Winter break will be from Dec. 22-31 with the last day of school on May 22. The Board will also vote on the proposed calendar at its January meeting.