Tax proposal may be next for R-III School District

By: Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 12/4/20

A special meeting held in mid-November to decide the fate of around $650,000 in programming cuts within the Warren County R-III School District resulted in several outcomes.

Most notably, a 6-1 …

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Tax proposal may be next for R-III School District

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A special meeting held in mid-November to decide the fate of around $650,000 in programming cuts within the Warren County R-III School District resulted in several outcomes.

Most notably, a 6-1 vote in favor of the budget cuts, which left many of the 150 attendees visibly disappointed and wondering how to move forward.

Additional actions related to that matter were proposed during the commentary offered by both board members and the public. Among them was another round of proposed cuts and the possibility of bringing a tax increase proposal to the voters on the April 2021 ballot. 

Both of these topics were scheduled for discussion during the board’s work session scheduled for Dec. 3.

As the board neared its vote at the special meeting, Vice President Dr. Chad Smith encouraged the community to do its part in keeping programming intact.

“Why am I bringing this up?” said Smith. “Because I don’t want to see these programs go, either. I would like for this board to partner with this community in finding a way forward.”

He reminded attendees of the message sent to the district from previous elections, in which a Prop W initiative to raise taxes to go toward salary increases for teachers has failed twice over the past two years, including in June of 2020. The latest ballot loss resulted in freezing staff salaries.

“Our ask at that time was for the community to support us for providing for our staff,” said Smith. “The answer was no.”

Previously, the ballot proposals have focused exclusively on funding for salaries to attract and retain qualified staff. While the board may again ask the public for assistance, the purpose of the funds may change.

“The thinking is that if people are willing to pay for the programs, we’re willing to keep them,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith. “If that would pass, we’re willing to keep the programs. Instead of going toward raises, it would go toward keeping programs and balancing the budget.”

Smith pointed strongly at the deficits between the tax rates for R-III and surrounding districts, in an effort to clarify the struggle to support student programming. He also outlined the historical tendency of tax proposals to have been met with opposition in the district.

“In 1980, the tax rate was $4.20 (per $100 assessed property valuation),” said Smith. “Now its $4.26.”

“Last time the proposed increase was 39 cents and estimated to bring in $1.1 million,” added Klinginsmith. “Coincidently, we needed 1.1 million to balance our budget.”

The other option for the board is another wave of cuts, which could include middle school sports and multiple administration positions — both suggested reductions mentioned during public comments of the special meeting. The board will decide how to move forward concerning the fate of these programs and positions, along with the ballot proposal, during that Dec. 3 work session.

“I would love to partner with the community,” said board member Sarah Janes. “We could potentially link arms.”

Klinginsmith says the past is not a reassuring indicator of relying on tax increases to solve financial predicaments. 

“Three times in three years — that’s normally not a great recipe,” said Klinginsmith, referring to the continued efforts to pass the tax increase proposal.

Warren County School District

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