Proposition S: Special School District Pushes For Operating Tax Levy

The district has proposed a $.19 increase on the November ballot to fund technology upgrades, teacher salaries and building improvements.

For the first time in six years, the Special School District of St. Louis County, which provides staffing for 22 school districts in the area in addition to the district's own schools, will ask voters to approve a tax levy increase that on a $100,000 house would equate to roughly $36 annually.

The increase, which at $0.19 would bring the overall tax levy to $1.19 per $100 assessed valuation, comes at a time when district superintendent John Cary said, for the first time in his more than 30 years in education, all sources of district revenue have gone down during the economic slowdown.

As a result, Cary said the district has been cutting expenses and staff--between 75 and 100 positions annually over the past three years.

If approved, funds would go toward technology programs, competitive teacher salaries and $85 million in needed building renovations at seven district buildings located in Ladue, Town and Country, Florissant, Sunset Hills and Crestwood. While the vast majority of the district's students are educated in their home school district, Cary said SSD faciliites have largely gone without significant upgrades for between 10-20 years. The largest single upgrade would come at Northview High School in Florissant, which needs $24.5 million to build a new school.

Autism related care seem to be what's driving the biggest need in the district. In 2000 district figures said there were 472 children with autism in district care. That number is now projected to be above 2700 in 2013.

"We feel like we’re seeing more success but at the same time it’s a very expensive population," Cary said, noting that autism cases aren't solely rising because of better ways to identify children who need care.

If we’ve learned anything in the disability community we've learned that there's a lot of human capital there going to waste and I think that’s why this is so important to not only this community but to taxpayes at large because we’re going to pay one way or another," Cary said.

Cary said the district had not yet identified contingencies for what might happen if the ballot question does not pass, noting that more community input would be needed. He said 80 percent of the district's budget is made up of staff, and that on the teacher side of things, the district needs to stay competitive on salaries because the pool of teachers certified to teach special education is smaller than the general population, and those teachers are often also certified to teach other subject areas, making it harder to keep them.

The district's website suggests that on top of more staff cuts, if the measure fails, staff would likely not be offered a salary increase starting next year.

Kelly O'Hanlon October 24, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Please vote for this tax levy increase!
flyoverland October 24, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I will vote for it if you promise to lower the rate back when property values return.
Graeme October 25, 2012 at 05:09 AM
No more taxes!!!!! We are taxed to death already!!!
PaulRevere November 05, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Perhaps the Special school district should get a larger share of our current property taxes. Wage differences in Public schools vs Special school district is unwarranted. Let's get a new Prop that demands more sharing of current Real Estate tax. I am voting NO, because our current Real Estate Taxes should allocate More to the special school district.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »