Letter to the Editor

NEVC new school financing questions answered

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dear Editor,

The Northeast Vernon County R-I will be asking the community to approve a $3.5 million project which will fund the construction of a centralized building to educate students from preschool through grade 12. The patrons are being asked to fund a little under $2.5 million through a bond while the district will foot the remaining million dollars. While the district has not reached its maximum bonding capacity, the board felt that the district could ease the taxpayers' burden by committing a little more than 1/4 of the price tag. The district will devote 49 cents of its operating fund to the debt service fund in order to make the annual payment. This has no tax impact on the citizens. It is included in the tax rate already. The district's share of about $90,000 per year is easily justified through energy and consolidation savings. Converting two buildings, which were built when Calvin Coolidge handed the presidential office to Herbert Hoover, into one MODERN building definitely represents the responsible approach to educating our children in these tough economic times. The new building will have numerous features, such as one kitchen, modern plumbing and wiring, insulation, etc., which lend themselves to enormous recurring cost savings. The floor plans are available on the school Web site: www.nevcknights.org. Also available on the site is the finance plan by L.J. Hart & Company, (800) 264-4477, and the certified construction estimate provided by Westport Construction, (660) 885-2231.

The financial aspects of the new school appear to generate the most questions and controversy. The April 6 election will be the last window of opportunity for patrons to approve a bond that makes the district eligible for "stimulus money" through the federal government. Once approved, half of the district's bond of $2.45 million, or $1.225 million, will be eligible for near-zero percent interest. Rates presently vary from zero to about 2 percent. This would mean a huge savings for the district and the taxpayers. As the ballot reads now, the patrons are being asked for a 94 cent increase in the tax rate. Once stimulus money is triggered, this amount could be lowered to the low 80 cents. So voters could see the tax increase as low as 80 cents to 84 cents, instead of the 94 cents. In addition, the bond could most likely be retired in 12 to 14 years, instead of 15 to 20 years.

Stimulus money, much like farm subsidy payments, originates from taxpayers like you and I. There is tremendous value in supporting farmers -- especially those in our area. In much the same way, it makes perfect sense to funnel stimulus money to Vernon County instead of watching it flow to St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, etc. If we are footing the bill for stimulus money payments, should we not benefit from it too?

Anyone who has listened to the news in the last year has heard many depressing reports about our current economy. The state of Missouri has been reporting shortages in revenue for the last few months. Fortunately, the NEVC district relies on the state for about 40 percent of its revenue. Therefore, due to the construction cost climate and projected economic data, it certainly seems like it would be in the taxpayers' best interest to invest in a new school, rather than squander their money on propane, electricity, and other persistent expenses.

TAXES! For about 80 percent of the district's properties, the increase in property tax will be less than $7.50 per month. A residence with a market value of $50,000 will have an increase of $7.44 per month. Obviously nobody wants to pay more taxes. The question remains: Do you want your taxes to pay for textbooks, teacher salaries, and technology? Or ... two buildings' worth of propane, diesel, electricity, insulation, and other continuous costs, which will only worsen as time goes on? Even opponents to Proposition S agree that the facilities are in dire need of replalcement and that consolidation is an excellent path to pursue. I would certainly agree. One modern building will be very superior to the two historical buildings that we are currently using. Hopefully the taxpayers will choose to help us streamline our resources, direct some stimulus money back to our area, and continue to support our many successful academic programs.

Charles Naas

NEVC Superintendent