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Ladue School Board Gets 1st Glimpse at Funding Building Plans

An initial draft of a funding plan for Ladue's $107 million "master plan" would raise the debt service tax by 30 cents per $100 in assessed value by 2015.

Members of the took their first steps toward implementing a massive building campaign within the district during a workshop session this week designed to consider possible ways to pay for the $107 million in improvements.

District officials cautioned that none of the financial ideas were set in stone and that they had work to do to communicate with parents and taxpayers about the district's need for new buildings, renovations and "seismic upgrades" to protect against earthquakes.

This first pass, presented by Jason Buckner, assistant superintendent for business and finance for the district, would involve two increases in the tax rate that supports paying the district's debt.

Now, taxpayers pay 35 cents for every $100 in assessed home value to cover the debt payments in the district. The district will consider this month raising that levy to 39 cents so it can comfortably cover its existing debt.

To finance the $107 million construction plan, however, this draft plan would raise the debt service rate to 65 cents in the 2015-16 school year. That rate would be required to cover a $52 million bond issue, which would require voter approval.

If the school board pursued that option, the owner of a home appraised at $500,000 would pay an additional $285 in property taxes between now and 2015.

"We don't want people to say this is what is going to happen," cautioned Susan Dielmann, communications director for the district. "You have to start somewhere."

Later, Buckner added: "This is a draft; it's one way to implement a master plan."

That does not include the district's levy for its operating budget, which Buckner said would likely remain unchanged for the next eight years — assuming no major changes in economic conditions.

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District superintendent Marsha Chappelow told board members on Monday that the plans will require them to "be more proactive in the district."

"It's an important time to start a discussion," she said. "Sometimes people don't want to talk about the money. But we should talk about the money."

Board member Andy Bresler told colleagues on the board that the draft financing plan would provide money for current existing needs, and position to district to handle unanticipated needs in 30 to 40 years.

"This is funding the capital plan and funding the 'Son of the Capital Plan,'" he said.

Board president Jayne Langsam asked district staff to come back to the board with guidance about what the next steps would be. Buckner expected the next step would be an informational public hearing on strategies for funding the construction before the board would vote on a plan.

Here are some of the priorities outlined in the district's master plan presentation in December (this is not a complete list; see the complete master presentation in the PDF attached to this article):

COST SCHOOL(S) PROJECTS $51.98 million Science wing addition; replacement windows; new music practice room; stadium improvements; "seismic" upgrades. Fire suppression systems throughout. $20.39 million Spoede Elementary; other schools New elementary school; maintain recent additions; replacement windows at a number of other schools, including Conway, Old Bonhomme, Reed, Ladue Middle, West Campus and the administrative center. $13.37 million , Old Bonhomme, , , facilities building. Conway: Library and cafeteria additions; renovations to existing library and cafeteria into classrooms. and renovations. Old Bonhomme and Reed: gym and art room addition; renovation of existing gym into cafeteria; renovate existing cafeteria into multipurpose space. Ladue Middle: reconfiguration of parking and traffic flow. $21.25 million Ladue Middle, administrative building Relocate media lab and reconfigure library; addition for student commons; new entry plaza and gym plaza; renovate former science classrooms; renovation of the administrative building.
James Baer (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 11:08 AM
My boss Kurt Greenbaum covered all the activities this week in Ladue while I was on vacation. And what a great job he did. He met a lot of the key personalities in the Ladue School District. Great work Kurt.
CreveCoeurDad September 12, 2012 at 01:00 PM
If I recall correctly, the statement that the operating levy is good for at least the next 8 years is something new. When Prop 1 was passed, weren't statements being made by the school district that Prop 1 would last a much shorter time frame before a new operating levy would be required - and that was an argument against Prop 1 by its detractors. I think the Patch may want to follow up on this one, separate from the new construction proposals, as it may be very good news for district taxpayers. At the very least, I'd like to know what has changed that allows the operating time horizon to extend out that much.
flyoverland September 12, 2012 at 01:42 PM
These people have no shame. Just astonishing. If you divide $106 million by 3500 students these people are talking about adding over $30,000 of more debt per student. This is in addition to what we already owe. They are gagging on debt now and want to add more. Meanwhile, property values are not moving. Unemployment is still high. Wages are stagnant, but these empire builders just cannot help themselves. Perhaps this will wake up the voters.
Kurt Greenbaum September 12, 2012 at 09:55 PM
You're right, Creve. This is relatively new and it's not set in stone yet. It's something that was briefly discussed at Monday's meeting. The idea is that the district is considering whether to limit increases in operating expenses to no more than 2 percent annually, and by doing so, it should extend their ability (barring unforeseen circumstances) to stretch revenue through the next eight years without an increase in the operating tax levy. But to your point, yes, that's something we could and will dig into further as the conversations develop.
CreveCoeurDad September 13, 2012 at 03:56 PM
That's just a silly number. Why don't you divide your home price by the number of occupants and tell us how much debt you have per occupant. I can guarantee it's WAY more than $30K, probably more on the order of 6 to 10 times more. Aren't you staggering on that debt, or are you just overconsuming? Who needs to spend so much, when they could easily get a much better deal in north St. Louis? Or is it just as meaningless as you seeing two numbers and smashing them together? I'm not saying all their spending plans are in order, they certainly should be scrutinized, but planning and prioritizing is their job, and putting together a plan, for whenever it takes effect, is certainly a good idea. Planning to spend nothing forever, not so much.
PaulRevere September 28, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Flyoverland: Has the right concerns. $106mil is what we call in the Accounting world "Off balance sheet financing". That's what the "ENRON's" of the world did. MSD did it. Look up these recent City Bankruptcies-- 1) Stockton Calif. 2) San Jose Calif, Atwater 3) San Bernadino Calif 4) Harrison Penn and more all around the country Making Loans like this impose a greater cost on those NOT using the public schools. Our Public school system is getting into too many non-education areas. When that happens , the whole universe of Residents can no longer be justified in supporting "Free public Education". Real estate taxes on Homeowners is 1/3rd the cost. What about the Businesses paying Real Estate taxes? Do they share $70mil of this? Get real--All Individuals will eventually pay the full share of this. Once as Real Estate and Automobile Pers Prop Taxes. Secondly, All will pay higher Prices passed on by Businessess and Renters needing to cover the costs. Public schools used to be about "Free Education". They used to be basic. They USED to pay competitive wages to all Teachers, including private school teachers. Our Boards are looking for money from the wrong sources. Educator Pay should make the first down payment on any new needs. They have chosen to reward themselves , when no rewards or raises were warrented. Educators need to contribute like all Professionals. Forcing Debt on Homeowners?? Debate the amount!? Yes! Flyoverland has it right!

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