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Francis Howell to hold public hearing on district property tax rate

Residents of the Francis Howell School District could see a 19-cent decrease in the district property tax rate for the new academic year, according to the district’s top finance officer.

During an Aug. 21 Board of Education meeting, district chief financial officer Kevin Supple attributed the projected decrease to expiration this year of a special purpose operating levy.

The board is scheduled to set the annual levy during its Sept. 18 meeting. Prior to the meeting, board members will hold a public hearing on the tax rate. The state requires the rate be set by Sept. 30 each year.

Supple said that the new rate will total about $5.19 per $100 of assessed valuation, down from about $5.38 for the current year. The rate was $5.18 for the 2012-13 academic year, the district reported. All numbers reflect the district’s combined operating and debt service rates.

“I don’t expect the numbers to change significantly,” Supple said.

The likely new rate, while lower than the current rate, is slightly higher than the rate Supple projected in April. That is because district-wide total assessed valuations dropped since March from $2.3 billion to $2.2 billion, according to Supple.

“The assessed valuation (of property) has declined,” Supple said.

Supple said he hopes to see “some increase” in 2015 in residential real estate assessed valuations but added that “some positive trends” in valuations are being threatened by tougher mortgage lending standards, which are keeping some people out of the housing market and inhibiting new residential construction. Newly occupied houses, Supple said, tend to keep property tax rates in check as the tax base increases in size.

The board also heard a preliminary report on student performance last year on standardized tests. Missouri Assessment Program scores for district students declined in language arts but increased for mathematics, according to Mary Hendricks-Harris, the district’s chief academic officer. Language arts scores fell statewide, but district scores slumped even more, she said. Certain grade levels performed better than others, Hendricks-Harris added.

“Subgroup performance is an area of concern,” Hendricks-Harris told the board, but she did not identify a specific subgroup, nor did she report scores, which were still embargoed by the state at the time. Statewide MAP results were made public on Aug. 29.

 

Marks rose for students who took the ACT college readiness exam, Hendricks-Harris said. ACT scores rose from 22.7 to 23.2, Hendricks-Harris said, and represented “a very significant gain” from 2013.

High school graduation rates, meanwhile, increased from about 92 percent to nearly 94 percent, she added.

Schools Superintendent Pam Sloan reported that district facilities were in good shape when the new school year began. She referred to recently completed improvement projects, including new flooring at Warren Elementary, Barnwell Middle and Francis Howell North; roofing work at Fairmount Elementary, Harvest Ridge Elementary, Bryan Middle, Hollenbeck Middle and Francis Howell Middle; a new playground at Harvest Ridge; track resurfacing at Francis Howell High and restroom upgrades at Independence Elementary.

In the area of safety and security, officials reported that, with the completion of new buzz-in hardware at all Vacation Station pre-school and after-school care sites, all district schools are now equipped with the entry system.

Sloan also said that a new teacher evaluation process, replacing a 25-year-old program, is being implemented this academic year.

“We will benefit significantly from the new teacher evaluation,” Sloan said.

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