The Francis Howell School District is asking is patrons to vote on a 60-cent property tax increase on the Nov. 8 election ballot.
The district’s Board of Education voted 6-1 at their July 28 meeting to place the measure on the ballot. The district’s tax rate would jump 60 cents per $100 assessed valuation if a simple majority of voters approve it this November. Board member Mike Hoehn cast the only no vote. The last time district voters approved a tax increase was in 2004.
According to the district’s web site, “Proposition Howell” would allow the district enough money to maintain high student academic achievement. The additional funding will help maintain class sizes, improve safety, increase technology, restore tutoring and maintain district facilities and existing bus transportation. If the hike is approved, the district’s property tax rate is estimated to land at $5.62 per $100 assessed valuation.
Board President Mike Lafata said on the district’s web page that the board has been a good steward of public money. The board reduced the tax rate seven different years, saving taxpayers more than $30 million, Lafata said on the web site.
“As a new superintendent, one of my primary goals is to engage our constituents and solicit their feedback,” said Superintendent Mary Hendricks-Harris, who was hired in February and took over the job on July 1, succeeding former Superintendent Pam Sloan, who recently retired. Almost all respondents to a survey last year said that it was important that the district’s students continue to perform well
“In order to fulfill the wishes of our community, we need our community to come out and support Proposition Howell,” she said. “The Francis Howell School District has made $20 million in budget cuts over the past five years and had to reduce staff by 190 full-time positions since 2012.”
The district has been debating the issue of tax increases for some time. The board voted 4-3 at their Jan. 21 meeting not to place a tax levy increase on the April ballot. The board took the action after voting last September to place an initiative back on the ballot after voted rejected Proposition Y, a 90-cent tax increase last August.
But in September 2015 the board never decided an exact amount of a possible tax levy, although staff and the board have discussed possible levy increases of 45 cents and 65 cents. Board members said then they see the need to increase revenue to avoid further budget cuts.
But several board members said communications have to be improved with district residents and the board must reach a consensus before going to voters with a tax increase.