$ .49 Operating Tax Increase on April 3 Ballot
The district will vote on Prop 1, an effort to raise the operating tax levy $.49, April 3.
“Prop 1 will give Ladue School District residents an opportunity to weigh in on what type of public schools the community should have,” superintendent Marsha Chappelow said. “The funds needed to sustain such a school district are no longer being automatically generated, and voters must now take deliberate action to determine the type of schools they wish to offer in the community.”
The school board discussed the tax levy Jan. 9 and proposed expenditures to be cut for the 2012-2013 year if Prop 1 fails. Without Prop 1, the district will need to cut $2.1 million. The proposed cuts include those from the K-2 Spanish program, music teachers and P.E staff cuts. The cuts were determined in large part by five criteria, including “maintaining the safety and security of student and staff, maximum savings with minimum impact on students educational programming and staff.” Core business/legal functions were also considered, along with “maintaining the reputation of the school district and what our community has told us they value in public education.”
“[Choosing the potential reductions] was a lengthy process involving a great deal of discussion and analysis,” assistant superintendent for business and finance Jason Buckner said. “I would not want anyone to believe these decisions came easily. My personal hope is that a great deal of time and effort has gone into something that will never happen.”
Another controversial potential cut was the removal of a college and career counselor. When the community learned of this aspect, they rallied, sending emails to the school board and passing petitions around the high school. Following the student and community outcry, the board decided to remove the clause about the college and career counselor, but made it clear that if Prop 1 does not pass, other areas will need to be cut.
“Both Mr. Cornwell and I are humbled by the support we received and excited about staying at Ladue,” college and career counselor Ken Fox said.
At the board business meeting Jan. 23, English teacher Julie Blank urged the school board to “send a strong, clear and consistent message to the community about the consequences of the failure of Prop 1.” Board president Sherri Glantz also made comments regarding the sheet of potential cuts.
“[This is] not anything more or anything less than an information sheet,” Glantz said. “It is the means of the board to maintaining transparency that every one of us feels is important.”
As information continues to be released and the community begins thinking about the April ballot, many are concerned about how a Prop 1 failure could jeopardize programs that make the district unique.
“I was upset that they were going to cut music teachers because that’s something that makes our school unique–the fact that our music program is one of the best in the state and cutting from that can only hurt us,” senior Sarah Fee said. “Furthermore cutting things like Spanish, it’s more things that make us unique and make us thrive, and when they cut those it really hurts our school as a whole.”
This was echoed Jan. 23, as the Ladue summer camp was discussed in relation to the levy.
“As we move forward with the tax initiative, I think it’s very important that we are very positive in selling the great things about Ladue,” board member Ken Smith said.
The failure of Prop 1 also effects the West Campus. The LECC will not be affected, but if Prop 1 fails, the district will not be able to open the Fifth Grade Center in the 2013-2014 year.
Another document details items that are under budget consideration for 2013-2014. This includes eliminating the gifted program and considering changing the high school schedule to a seven period day.
“I think the levy is important because the district needs the financial support of the community in order to continue to provide high quality instructional services to all students,” English teacher Janet Duckham said. “It is encouraging to see students and parents mobilize to protect those services.”
For now, communication and transparency are the goals of Prop 1 supporters. Between now and April, students, staff, parents and administrators will work to spread the word about the benefits of Prop 1–and potential consequences if it fails.
“What needs to be done is to get the word out to all people who live in the district about the issues that the school faces, and how that will damage them as well,” junior David Abraham said. “Raising awareness to people who live in the district along with parents of children at all levels of schooling would certainly help the levy pass.” #