Questions & Answers for the Upcoming Lawson R-XIV Levy Increase Question on August 3, 2021
Q. Why is an operating tax levy important for a school district?
A: Property taxes are a primary funding source for school districts and the major local revenue source for a district. According to the latest data, local revenues provide 47.86% of total revenue for the Lawson R-XIV School District, which is two percent higher than in 2017. The 2% increase in local revenue dependence is equal to a 2% drop in the percentage of revenue provided by the state during the same time. Essentially, state funding is declining, forcing the District to rely more on local revenues to operate. For Lawson R-XIV, the burden created by the decline in state revenue is greater than the revenue currently provided through the local tax levy. Without additional local revenue, the result is deficit spending to continue to operate the District.
Q: Will a “no” vote on the property tax levy increase question lower my taxes?
A: No, the current tax rates would remain in effect and would be calculated annually by state law and approved by the Board of Education each August.
Q: What question does the Lawson R-XIV School District have on the April ballot?
A: There is a 95 cent (0.95) per $100 of assessed valuation tax levy increase proposal on the ballot.
Q. How will the levy increase question appear on the ballot?
“Shall the school board of Lawson R-XIV School District be authorized to increase the operating tax levy for the purpose of providing funds to pay for increased costs of educational programs, contracted services, retaining quality teachers and staff, and meeting increased operational costs by ninety-five cents ($0.95) per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation?
If this proposition is approved, the adjusted operating levy of the school district is estimated to be $3.9047 (total operating levy after increase) per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation.”
Q: If the tax levy increase passes how will the funds be used?
A1: We are committed to increasing the salaries of our staff with the additional revenue. Salaries and benefits account for the largest portion of the operating budget. The funds will be used to improve and maintain our salary and benefit offerings for all staff, enabling the district to retain and attract quality staff to educate our students. We don’t want to be a training facility for other districts located in the Northland. The District’s Strategic Plan has a goal of a starting salary (base) of $40,000 by 2030 for a first-year teacher. The passage of the levy increase issue should allow the District to achieve this goal by 2025. The current base salary is $36,750 for 2021-22.
A2: The additional funds will be used to support the general operations of the district. Funds will also be used to expand and maintain technology, as well as cover the increased costs of goods and services such as contracted transportation and virtual learning as required by state law. The District currently does not have the ability to cover these increased costs and make significant salary increases without annual deficit spending.
Q. Are the revenues from the levy increase going to be spent entirely on new expenditures?
A. No, the decline in state revenue has resulted in a greater burden on local funds to continue operations. Local revenues are mainly based on property taxes. The combined negative effects of the Great Recession and the overall decline in enrollment has forced the District to utilize reserve funds at times over the past decade to obtain a balanced budget. The additional revenue will be utilized to offset the decline in state revenues for increased operating costs. These are existing expenditures that require a larger budget each year to continue to operate.
Q. How much will my taxes increase if the levy increase passes?
Q. When was the last time the District asked for an operating levy increase?
Q. Doesn’t the District have a debt service levy and what’s the difference from an operating levy?
Q. So why is the District asking for increased monies for operations and constructing buildings at the same time?
A: As mentioned in the previous question, a debt service levy is required by law to pay only on debt for buildings and renovations. It’s a guarantee to the taxpayer that the district will pays its ‘mortgage’ obligations. The Lawson R-XIV school district has had a 95-cent debt service levy for a number of years that has allowed the district to construct additions to the high school, middle school, and Southwest to meet enrollment needs. Additionally, it constructed the Sellers Performing Arts Center, the high school renovation adding the new Library, and The Barker Center. The debt service levy will also be used to pay for the construction of the Southwest Safe Room that is being partially funded by a $1.7million FEMA grant. As mentioned in the previous question, the operating levy is used exclusively for the operating purposes of the district. The overall decline in state funding is forcing the district to rely more on local funds to operate.
Q. What are the District’s sources of operating funds?
Q: How is a property tax levy calculated?
A: The tax levy is determined utilizing a state calculation that considers the previous year’s tax rate, the current Consumer Price Index, the assessed value (AV) of the properties within the district’s boundaries, and new growth of properties within the district’s boundaries. It is calculated before the school year begins and approved by the Board of Education.
Q. In what ways can a school district increase its revenues?
Q. How does the District benefit from new construction?
Q. How does Missouri law, such as the Hancock Amendment, limit growth in the District’s local tax revenue?
In some years during the early years of the Great Recession, revenue growth was calculated at zero according to the three scenarios. Consequently, the District does not benefit significantly from increases in assessed value, and operating tax revenue growth has remained relatively small.
Q. If the District is not receiving more money from increases in assessed value, why have my property taxes risen in the past several years?
Q. So if the Lawson R-XIV School District’s operating levy has declined since 2013-14, will it decline in the future?
A. If as outlined above, the assessed valuation growth outpaces the allowable tax revenue growth by law (the Hancock Amendment), then the District will be required to lower the tax rate. At one time, the District had a levy of $4.40 (1984). As assessed valuation has grown significantly over the past 36 years, the levy has been reduced according to law.
Q. Are there other Districts in the area that have successfully passed levy increases for the same reasons of need such as increased operating expenses or salary increases for staff?
A. Yes, just in the past two years there have been other area districts that have passed levy increases. In June 2020, Braymer voters approved a $1.00 increase to the operating levy. In April 2021 four area school districts had questions on the ballot seeking more funds for operating expenses. Wellington-Napoleon voters approved a $1.25 increase for operating expenses and salary improvements. Grandview voters approved a $0.60 increase for “attracting and retaining quality certified and support staff, and meeting additional operating expenses”.
Q. How does the Lawson R-XIV School District’s operating levy compare with other districts?
Q. How does the Lawson R-XIV School District’s OVERALL levy compare with other districts?