Facilities Director Chris Freund provided an update to the Board of Education and the public at the Feb. 1, 2024 Board of Education meeting.
He covered what's next following the passage of Prop 3, as well as staffing challenges and what the department and the district are doing to recruit new employees.
According to the official election results posted on the St. Louis County Elections website, with all precincts reporting, 8,824 votes (66.28%) were cast in favor of Proposition 3, and 4,489 votes (33.72%) were cast against it.
According to the official election results posted on the Jefferson County Elections website, 252 votes (67.02%) were cast in favor of Proposition 3, and 124 votes (32.98%) were cast against it.
Restructuring the tax rate will allow the district to allocate resources to safety, technology and facilities with zero change to the overall tax rate.
As shown, the district’s total tax rate is comprised of four tax rates; one for each of the district's funds. Under Missouri law, tax dollars collected in each fund can only be used for the purposes of that fund. Rockwood's long-range strategic financial plan called for a transfer of funds from Debt Service to Capital Projects and that can only be done through voter approval.
- The Incidental Fund provides resources for the daily operations of the district, including payment of salaries and benefits for non-certified employees, student transportation, curriculum resources, utilities, insurance, student activities, and other general operating costs.
- The Teacher's Fund provides resources to pay certificated teachers' salary and benefits.
- The Capital Projects Fund provides funding to maintain and refresh the district’s facilities and equipment.
- The Debt Service Fund provides funding to pay interest and principal on the district's debt (bond issues).
|Total Tax Rate
The Rockwood School District Board of Education has voted 6-0 to place a proposition on the Nov. 7, 2023, ballot for a no-tax-increase levy transfer to establish a dedicated annual funding source for safety, technology and facilities (one board member was not present at the meeting to vote).
This funding source would eliminate the need to borrow funds and pay interest on safety items, scheduled technology upgrades and facility upkeep, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars. Proposition 3 would essentially result in a transfer of funds by increasing the operating tax levy by $0.54 over two years and simultaneously reducing the debt service levy by the same amount, resulting in a zero-tax-rate increase.
If approved, Prop 3 would be phased in over a two-year period, and the resulting operating funds would amount to approximately $26-27 million annually when fully phased in. The funds could only be used for safety, technology and facility maintenance and improvements. District staff have prioritized needs at schools across the district, and that list includes security cameras, radios, student devices, cybersecurity measures, HVAC, roofing, athletic fields and playgrounds as well as items such as chair lifts and elevators to increase accessibility for all students. Funds from Proposition 3 cannot be used for daily operating expenses such as salaries, utilities and supplies.
“Our maintenance and refresh needs are not adequately funded by current resources,” shared Chief Financial Officer Cyndee Byous while addressing the Board on August 17.
In fact, Byous shared that the funds from the last bond issue, Prop T in 2017, were depleted through projects completed this summer.
“This transfer has been part of our long-term strategic financial plan for years,” shared Byous. “The Debt Service Levy Transition Plan was first discussed in 2014, developed in 2016 and embedded in the district's strategic plan in 2018. We understand that spacious, well-maintained schools with updated technology are necessary to equip students with the tools for success, and this is a common-sense, responsible way to address those annual needs without incurring interest costs, particularly at today’s interest rates.”
A similar ballot initiative, Proposition P, failed to pass last year when 50.88 percent of district patrons opposed the measure. In a post-election survey conducted by the district, residents indicated they didn’t have enough information about the proposition to support it.
According to Byous, the district needs $30-35 million each year to keep pace with safety, technology and facility needs and the average age of a Rockwood school is 47 years old. She used an analogy to explain why a levy transfer is more responsible than issuing bonds to address those needs.
“You wouldn’t take out a mortgage to replace your roof or carpeting in your home,” Byous said. “This is more like moving money from a savings account to a checking account rather than taking out a loan. The interest savings can be used toward the necessary materials and projects.”
Proposition 3 will require a simple majority to pass.