Swedeborg resoundingly rejects tax proposal by 2-to-1 margin
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 4:13 am
Lorraine Britt (standing) assists County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer with preparing a report on the Feb. 3 Swedeborg tax election.
SWEDEBORG, Mo. (Feb. 4, 2009) — Pulaski County’s smallest school district had one of the county’s largest-ever turnout percentages in a special election Tuesday in which voters resoundingly defeated a proposed tax increase.
The Swedeborg R-III School District has only 389 registered voters, but 137 of them — 35.2 percent — showed up to cast their ballots, along with one absentee voter. When the ballots were counted Tuesday night, the tally showed 94 voters opposed to a proposed property tax increase and 43 supporting it.
That’s more than a two-to-one defeat for the tax increase, with 68.6 percent voting against the proposal.
If the proposal had succeeded, it would have raised the district’s property tax levy from $2.75 per $100 of assessed valuation to what state school officials consider to be an appropriate level of $3.43.
While the proposed 36 percent increase in property taxes would have made Swedeborg’s taxes much higher than almost any area school district, at the November meeting when the tax levy vote was proposed, board members unanimously agreed that the increase is needed so the Swedeborg district can get its full share, estimated at $20,000 per year, of $5 million in state aid for small schools. State aid is crucial to Swedeborg since local school property tax revenue generated only $123,000 out of a budget of about $700,000, according to District Administrator Ryan Warnol.
The actual Swedeborg ballot language called for a 99-cent increase to $3.74 per $100 of assessed valuation. However, members of school boards, city councils and other tax districts have the right to roll back tax levies approved by voters at their annual tax rate hearing, though that rarely happens and tax rate hearings usually have few people attending. Swedeborg voters have been asked to approve the 99-cent increase to $3.74 with the understanding that board members will roll it back each year to $3.43 each year. Since property taxes have to be rolled back each year if property value increases exceed the inflation rate, board members have said getting voter approval for a higher tax levy with the understanding the board will roll it back each year is the only way to make sure Swedeborg gets its share of state aid.
Interviewed shortly after he learned of the voting results, Warnol said he’s disappointed but that no program cuts would be required. The tax vote rejection means the district won’t qualify for additional state aid, however, that would have been helpful in paying for additional state-mandated programs next year.
“One of the things that was expressed is the requirement to actually increase salaries according to our state guidelines and add seventh and eighth grade exploratory courses; I don’t anticipate any cuts in academic programs or other types of activities,” Warnol said. “The question was asked, ‘What are we going to do now,’ and I responded with Board President Chris Black’s remarks. He nailed it — if it doesn’t pass we’re going to operate as tight as we have to and continue to operate with the resources we have.”
While he regretted the results, Warnol said he was happy to see many voters filling his school library to vote.
“I was pleased to see the number of voters come out and vote in our community. In terms of our democratic system, turnout is a very positive thing,” Warnol said. “I think one of the big things that any kind of district in the state or the country has is facing the tight economic times that we are in. Individuals and families are having to pinch pennies and meet the needs that they have.”
Ballot language of 'Proposition A'
Shall the Board of Education of Swedeborg Reorganized School District No. R-III of Pulaski County, Missouri, be authorized to increase the operating tax levy by ninety-nine cents (99 cents) per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation in order to ensure maximum state funding is received for meeting educational needs?
If this question is approved, the adjusted operating levy of the District is estimated to be $3.43 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation. Currently the operating levy is $2.75 and the actual real impact is estimated to be only sixty-eight cents to meet the state funding requirements.