With the April election in sight, the Camdenton school board has a decision to make. To raise the tax levy or not, that is the question. The district has specific construction projects that need to be completed in the next few years. In order to finance those projects, the tax levy must be increased or the way the current levy is set up must be re-figured.
The board is left with two options. One option includes a 10 cent increase to the current $2.87 levy (per $100 of assessed valuation) which would allow bonds to be issued over time totaling $35 million. The other option would simply restructure the current funds and would not increase the tax levy at all.
In order to meet the increasing and ever changing needs of two elementary schools, Osage Beach elementary and Hurricane Deck elementary, the board is looking at plans to add on to both buildings. With whichever option the board chooses, the ballot language would reflect where the funds will go. The language is also to include a clause that would allow the district to used any leftover funds for safety improvements anywhere in the district.
During the board's January meeting, members discussed the two options. When talk of increasing the levy arose some members were leery and brought up the concern for the district's faculty. Board member Jackie Schulte said that teachers had not been given raises in a while. She said she would like to look at the possibility of giving raises before increasing the tax levy. "I think we need to talk about that before we talk about a bond issue," she said.
Superintendent Tim Hadfield addressed the concern by saying that he had met with the salary committee and it does look like raises are a possibility in the near future. He was unclear if a tax levy increase was mandatory for raises to be a reality.
One of the board's main concerns when weighing their refinancing options was if it was too late to get a campaign underway for the April election. Representatives from George K. Baum and Company along with reps from ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens were on hand to take the board's questions. Michael Kautz from ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens ensured the board that they do indeed have time to get this on the ballot and to get a campaign underway. They would need to form a campaign committee, appoint chairmen and figure out what type of story their campaign would tell. The bulk of the work would need to be done by February 18. The new options would extend the district's debt until 2035.
The new construction would allow for more classrooms, more students and more staff at each school and would add resources that some of the outlying schools currently do not have. "I don't think any of us disagree that the need is here," Board President Nancy Masterson said. Now it is up to the board to decide which option is best for the district.
Page 2 of 2 - The board is set to meet again on Jan. 22 at 7 a.m. Dick Bartow of George K. Baum and Company will be present with ballot language options. The board then will vote on the option they see as the best fit for the district. Ballot language must be turned in to Camden County by Jan 29 to be certified for the April election.
If Camdenton moves forward with a levy proposal, it will be the second lake area district to announce plans to go to voters. School of the Osage has already filed a ballot issue for the April election.