The Warren County R-3 school district says it supports leaving the debt service levy rate the same ahead of its no-tax increase bond issue on the April 2024 ballot.
Multiple Warren County R-III Board of Education members voiced support for the district leaving the debt service levy at just over 65 cents.
Last month, the board discussed whether to keep the debt service levy at 65.03 cents or raise the rate to 69 cents at the August tax rate hearing prior to the district’s April 2024 bond issue, in which the district will ask for voter approval for a no tax rate increase bond issue for a new elementary school.
The district considered the 69 cent levy because it would allow them to save about $1 million in fees for the project, Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith said.
“My recommendation is just to keep it at 65.03 because I think if we raise it, it might even just kill the project,” Klinginsmith said.
Warren County R-III Board of Education member Carolyn Spraggs said raising taxes does not go over well in Warren County. She noted the Warrenton Fire Protection District’s recent struggles with failing to pass a bond issue.
“That idea for us to raise our rates at our tax meeting and then have a no tax increase on the ballot, that seems disingenuous,” Spraggs said. “So I don’t exactly like that idea either.”
Board President Franci Schwartz thinks there are citizens in the district boundary who do not understand the district can legally increase the rate at the Aug. 24 tax rate hearing without voter approval and still run a no tax increase bond issue.
“I understand how it works but walk up to somebody on the street, I’m not sure they do,” Schwartz said. “And so they see us raising taxes without the real authority to do that is how a lot of people feel.”
Klinginsmith stressed the 2025 reassessments will play a key factor in the financial outlook for the bond issue, if approved by the voters. The district would not need to take out a loan if assessments go up 25 percent. Klinginsmith said the county assessor “in the papers has been quoted as it’s 30 percent behind.”
If the assessed values are one correctly, the district would not need to borrow $2.8 million in fees with the 65.03 cent debt service levy, Klinginsmith added.
“It just depends on if you believe that it will go up that much or not,” Klinginsmith said. “I’m doubtful that it will go up that high. But, that’s where I think it should be.”
Klinginsmith said the first notice of the tax rate hearing listed 69 cents as a possibility for the debt service tax rate. Klinginsmith confirmed that the board consensus was to keep the debt service tax rate at 65.03 cents.
Earlier at last week’s meeting, the board approved a $875,000 prepayment in the district’s debt service. The move will allow the district to have more bonding capacity and pay down debt, Klinginsmith said.
“Just like at your house, any time you can make a prepayment on your loans, it’s a good thing,” Klinginsmith said. “So we will be paying down our debt essentially and then at the same time, freeing up bonding capacity for future projects.”
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