Voters in Skyline R-II school district to decide on proposed tax levy increase - Mountain Grove News-Journal : News

Voters in Skyline R-II school district to decide on proposed tax levy increase

Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2016 10:35 am

Voters in the Skyline R-II School District will go to the polls Tuesday, April 5, to decide the fate of a proposed 48-cent tax levy increase.

About 23 people attended the two open forums held February 11 and March 24, at the school to discuss the proposal. Administrator Jeanne Curtis was joined by school board members in explaining the need for the tax levy increase.

If approved, Skyline’s tax levy would increase to $3.43 per $100 assessed valuation. The levy currently is $2.9502

The increase is expected to produce an additional $44,000 per year in local tax dollars. With a levy of at least $3.43, Skyline also would qualify for an additional $156 per student from the state for an additional $20,000 per year.

Curtis presented handouts that showed Skyline’s reserve funds have dropped from $511,514 in 2008 to $134,520 at the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year.  A lot of the problems started when the economy slowed down around 2007-08.  The state foundation formula and transportation funds have not been fully funded since this time, and the school’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA) has dropped from 157 to 132. These three items combined have caused the majority of the decline in the ending fund balance. The school board has tried to counter those losses by adjusting staff, combining some classes and putting off major purchases such as new school buses.

Since 2008, Skyline has decreased staff by three teachers and two aide positions. The school went several years without a nurse/nurse clerk because of funds and only have one now on staff because of grants.  Other items such as extra-curricular activities and healthy food and snacks are being funded through grants as well.  

This year, Skyline is combing the fifth and sixth grades as well as the seventh and eighth grades.  Third and fourth grades were combined for a couple of years, but had to separate them back out because of the numbers in those classes.  If the tax levy does not pass one of the first things that will have to happen to save money is to combine more classrooms.  These students have and will continue to receive quality instruction from the teachers whether they are combined or individual classes.

One person asked why Skyline is asking for 48 cent levy instead of a smaller increase for now.  The board targeted the $3.43 amount because it was the minimum that would allow the district to receive additional state funding.

Curtis and the Board both stated the proposed increase would allow the district to ‘maintain’ what it has without allowing for any increased spending on other items.  The state starts considering a school “financially stressed” when the reserves are below 10% and will label them as such at 3%.  Skyline finished 2014-2015 at 10%.  Areas that are the biggest concern to the board at this time are bus replacements and school safety.  Part of the increase in funding will be set aside in Fund 4 to start replacing the buses and making more changes safety wise to the school in the future.

Some asked where Skyline will be in five years. Curtis and the Board remained optimistic that school enrollments will make some gains in the near future and that the higher tax levy along with good financial management by the board will allow Skyline to stay open and offer a quality education for its students.  Without the tax levy more cuts will have to be made in personnel and classes will have to be combined but we will still see positive results from the students.

Skyline was created approximately 59 years ago combining ten of the area small one-room school houses to make one school.  The building consisted of six small rooms, one office, one nurse’s office, and two bathrooms.  A gym with a wooden stage was added sometime in the 1970’s.  In 1990 there were two classrooms added behind the gymnasium and then in 1995 the biggest addition to the school was added (5 classrooms, a resource room, 2 small offices, and a nurse’s office).  Skyline is located in a rural setting without any area businesses so it is considered the hub of the community.  The building is used for numerous school activities as well as community events such as the annual Fire Department Chili Supper.

Board member, Steve Moody, stated this is a “value tax”.  We value our school, students, and their education.  We value our community and Skyline is the hub of the community.  A little extra money once a year will help save the school and the community.  Ms. Curtis and the Board urged the group to work together and get the tax levy proposal passed.

Patrons can also call Ms. Curtis at the school at 683-4874 for additional information or talk to local Board members. We ask that District patrons come out on April 5 and vote “yes” to the proposed tax levy and show your support for the area children.