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Ladue Schools Puts Operating Tax Increase On April 2012 Ballot

District struggles to find ways to make up for significant revenue decline.

 

The Board of Education of the Ladue School District voted unanimously on November 28, 2012 to put a $.49 operating tax levy increase request on the April 3, 2012 ballot.  The request, to be called Proposition 1, is aimed at offsetting at least some of the 9 percent decline in revenue the district has experienced over the last several years due primarily to reductions in property assessments.

The district has already cut approximately $7 million dollars in expenditures – equivalent to approximately 14 percent of its current annual expenditures – over the last four years. Without an operating tax increase, the district will need to cut approximately $2.5 million more to balance the district’s budget for the 2012-13 school year – bringing expenditure cuts to a total equivalent of 19 percent of the district’s current expenditures.

 Increasing costs beyond the district’s control offset many of these reductions each year.  For instance, increases in expenditures for utilities, insurance, purchased services, supplies, state mandated retirement contributions and contracted building maintenance are either partially or totally beyond the district’s control.   

Without further expenditure reductions, or an operating tax increase to help replace lost revenue, the district is projected to have a negative unrestricted fund balance of over $5.23 million by the 2015-16 school year.  The Ladue School District, traditionally one of the most high-achieving and financially stable public schools in the area, will likely lose ground on several fronts without additional funding. 

In 2011, the district’s per pupil expenditure, as reported to the State of Missouri, was $13,000: $5,065 less per student than Clayton School District; and also lower than Brentwood, Maplewood-Richmond Heights and Pattonville School Districts.  In fact, the district’s per pupil expenditure was closer to those of University City, Kirkwood and Normandy School District’s than any of the four districts spending more per pupil than Ladue Schools.

Similarly, for many years the district was able to consistently maintain one of the top three positions in teacher salaries in the area, allowing the district to successfully recruit top educators. However, in 2010-11 Ladue Schools trailed behind Clayton, Kirkwood and Pattonville School Districts, and anticipates falling even lower in the ranking without any additional revenue coming in to the district. 

Additionally, without an increase in revenue, the district is concerned about losing its AAA Standard & Poor’s rating which is taken into consideration when financial institutions set interest rates for bond debt.  “We could go from being one of 68 school districts in the country with a AAA rating to having a negative fund balance over the next four years,” states Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Dr. Jason Buckner.  “Unfortunately, what was once hard to imagine is starting to seem possible.”

The district is currently developing two budget scenarios to be presented to the Board of Education in January.  One outlines the allocation of expenditures if Proposition 1 passes and is not anticipated to include significant additional cuts.  The other outlines expenditures if Proposition 1 does not pass and is anticipated to reflect approximately $2.5 million in additional reductions to be made to balance the 2012-13 budget.

“The last time we announced budget reductions to the community, we had over two hundred people at our Board meeting and parents were demanding we put the tax increase question to a vote immediately,” explains Superintendent Dr. Marsha Chappelow.  “We have managed our money well.  In fact, our expenditures have increased less over the past six years than nearly all districts in the county.  We wouldn’t be asking our community for more help in these tough economic times if it wasn’t necessary to maintain the district’s current status.”

Information was provided by the communications department of the Ladue School District.

St. Louis is a destination March 19, 2012 at 01:28 PM
SS, I emailed a teacher last night. Ladue still has merit pay. There was a transition period when the district switched from one system to another, but evaluation still dictates pay. You are correct that pay raises have not kept up with the cost of living.
Fixed Income March 19, 2012 at 01:44 PM
The former merit pay system was a joke. It was nothing but an automatic raise. A community finance committee in 2004 audited the plan over ten years. In over about 3500 opportunities to rate teachers less than ten opportunities were not at the absolute highest ranking. It was just an automatic annual raise and is the reason our payroll system jumped so high over that time. We are now paying the price for huge annual raises back then that have compounded over time.
St. Louis is a destination March 19, 2012 at 02:18 PM
FI, Please provide a link to this audit of which you write. Thanks.
Fixed Income March 19, 2012 at 02:23 PM
There is no link. Go back and review the minutes and recommendations of the finance committee that was convened after Prop L was defeated. It was reported at the same meeting when the committee suggested a one year pay freeze and the teachers' representative told them if they did the teachers would show up at quarter to eight and leave at three fifteen. I'm sure you were at the meeting. The man who did the audit was a CPA and the former CEO of a major company as well as a former auditor for E&Y. The period was from 1994 to 2004. It was the report that led to the changes in program.
SS April 02, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Hi Tom, Please stop robo-calling my house to try to turn me against this much-needed tax levy. Our property taxes have all gone down in recent years, leaving the school district without the resources necessary to teach our children. This is simple economics. The tactics of "TakeBackLadue" show Ladue residents in a terrible light; I hate to think of my neighbors as cheap, dishonest, and manipulative. If you have a solution for how to teach more students with less money, I'd like to hear it. If you don't have any ideas, at least please stop calling my home with this vicious nonsense.

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