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Proposition S: Special School District Pushes For Operating Tax Levy

The district, which includes Brentwood and MRH, 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.

Brentwood and Maplewood Richmond Heights school districts use the Special School District's services.

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.

TOOWARM October 26, 2012 at 10:56 AM
This is a 20% increase. When was your last 20% raise? Last year my assessment went down.. their bill went UP.. No way..
Ed October 26, 2012 at 11:24 AM
This 20% is over 6 years so we are only talking approximate increase of 3.3% a year! So if our assessments went down so did the school districs income. So you are paying less with a lower assessment than 6 years ago! The investment in our children's future is worth this modest increase!
TOOWARM October 26, 2012 at 11:44 AM
They may have not had a voter approved increase the last 6 years but they have been steadily increasing their rate up as assessments went down (without approval). My bill has increased over the last 6 years consistently. This increase is actually in addition to non voter approved rates set by the Board. I was being kind with just the 20%. I am so tired of hearing "but it's for the kids". PS Brentwood has been doing the same thing as assessments went down . Yes, it all adds up..
Ed October 26, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Let me guess ! You do not have any school age children in the district? You never had children take advantage of our quality education in the district? And YES is For The Kids!!!!!! The district does not get rich and retires!
RDBet October 26, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I'm voting for it.
RDBet October 26, 2012 at 02:27 PM
And yes, it is for the kids. As mentioned in article, they've made cuts in staff, even with more demands on the district. It also is a wise investment for the community. Charities and private schools are not capable of taking over for the special school district, and they do not want to. Neglect our schools and children now, and it will eventually cost taxpayers more in the future.
Mr. Completely October 26, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Only 100 pennies in a dollar. Figure it out voters!
AHB November 02, 2012 at 04:10 PM
If you don't want to do it "for the kids," use it as an incentive to improve your own health. I can't imagine people choosing a few cups of Starbucks, sodas, beers or cocktails over this important investment in the lives of our neighbors (children, parents, teachers, those with jobs in construction of school buildings, etc.) and community. And if you can't handle the occasional free glass of water, your selfless support of the Special School District may just produce future tax payers and doctors to serve your future needs. Since, yes, it all adds up...

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