If you’re a registered voter in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, then you have an important decision to make between now and Aug. 6.
Recently, the Ferguson-Florissant Board of Education approved a proposition measure for a tax levy that will be placed on the Aug. 6 ballot.This comes at a time when the district faces a big budget hurdle with as much as $8 million shortfall expected for the 2013-2014 school year.
Proposition A would increase a tax levy by 75 cents per $100 assessed valuation to help the district’s general operating expenses, according to a district press release. This breaks down to $5.49 for residential and commercial property as well as for personal property.
So, if you own a $100,000 home, this would be a tax increase of $11.86 per month or $142.40 for a year.
Ferguson-Florissant Money Trouble Looms
The Ferguson-Florissant 2013-2014 financial picture has been a topic of discussion amongst the community for the past few months.
In March, District Finance Director Finance Director Laura Modrusic presented a budget draft for 2013-2014 of $134.7 million with approximately $6.9 million in cuts. At that time, it had been said that the district faced as much as a $10 million deficit, but the latest news release stated the figure is closer to $8 million.
Ferguson-Florissant Superintendent Art McCoy said in a letter to parents and community members that the deficit is a result of decreased assessed valuations, decline in state aid, the rise in health care costs and other issues at the federal, state and local level.
At that time, the district had done a number of cost-saving measures to that proposed budget already, including saving on salaries and benefits through attrition, freezing salaries for the school year and not purchasing new books. Superintendent Art McCoy emphasized at that time that the essentials of the district would not be cut from the budget.
“We’re cutting back on things that have proven not to be effective,” he said. “We’re required to focus on our core standards. We’re doing out of the box practices for student achievement and innovation. We are committed to keeping high-quality programs for students.”
McCoy pointed out that the district remains committed to several programs, such as early childhood education and building on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) innovations.
The district also needed to make cuts for the 2012-2013 school year as a $4 million deficit occurred. At that time, Ferguson-Florissant spokeswoman Jana Shortt said the district has already dipped into reserves to deal with the budget situation and anticipates reserves to be at 15.98 percent at the end of the school year.
In a previous article, Superintendent Art McCoy said that for this year, the district already has made close to $1 million in cuts, including in textbooks, reorganizing summer school and the Saturday School program, payroll adjustments and transportation reorganization.
What Would Proposition A Do?
Proposition A would help the district in its operating expenses. The district expects with approval of the proposition, it would generate $6 million and a $1.8 million surplus.
According to an announcement posted on the district website, the tax levy would allow the district to do the following:
• Maintain the number of staff positions to help the District avoid an increase in class sizes;
• Maintain local Parents as Teachers and preschool programs;
• Fund the increasing cost of technology, textbooks, and other instructional materials;
• Maintain programs, such as band and orchestra, vocal music, drama, fine arts, athletics, Celebrate Children, OASIS tutoring, extracurricular and summer programs;
• Allow all the schools in the district to remain open, rather than having to close a school to save funds;
• Ensure the District’s ability to attract and retain highly-qualified staff.
Without the funding, the district would have to look at cutting other programs and essentials such as staff, schools or activities, Modrusic said.
The proposition needs a simple majority to pass. It will be on the Aug. 6 ballot.
The Ferguson-Florissant Board approved the 2013-2014 budget last week, forecast at $134.7 million, at its June 12 meeting, which included a $4 million deficit.