WGSD TAXPAYERS VOTE NO APRIL 7th

1. What are Propositions S & W?

On April 7th, 2015 WGSD voters will decide property tax increases.

Proposition S is a 65-cent tax levy assessed against property owners on the assessed value on all taxable property in the district. Passage of the tax levy would raise the property tax rate in the district by an estimated 65 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation.

Proposition W is a $28 million bond assessed against property owners on the assessed value on all taxable property in the district. Passage of the bond issue would raise the debt service property tax rate in the district by an estimated 28 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation.

Together, passage of both the tax levy (Prop S) and bond issue (Prop W) would raise the tax levy and debt service property tax rate in the district by 93 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation. http://www.webster.k12.mo.us/pages/WGSD/Bond_Issue

2. What effect will that have on me?

Your taxes will go up 10.2%. If you own residential real estate property within the City of Webster Groves, your residential real estate taxes will go up 10.2%.

Props S & W, if passed, will substantially increase each owner’s residential real estate property tax. Here are the details: WGSD has a current tax rate of $5.8584 per $100 assessed valuation. If both propositions pass, then 93 cents ($.65 + $.28) will be added to the $5.8584, bringing the rate up to $6.7984 per $100 assessed valuation.

Together, Props S & W, if passed, will increase each owner’s residential real estate property tax. Within the City of Webster Groves, residential real estate taxes will go up 10.2% To learn how much your tax will go up, click here to use the tax levy calculator. Beware, the Tax Levy Calculator only shows the tax increase, not the total tax payment: http://www.webster.k12.mo.us/pages/WGSD/Bond_Issue

3. What effect will Props S & W have for WGSD?

Importantly, from the perspective of the WGSD, the additional amounts from Props S & W will increase the WGSD’s income from real estate property tax by 16%.

The WGSD will receive a raise in revenue from district real estate property tax payers of 16%.

4. Has it been a long time since the WG School Board received a tax increase?

No, the WGSD has already received four tax increases in the past 10 years. Specifically,

  • In 2005, property taxes were increased by a tax levy of 68 cents.
  • In 2006, property taxes were increased by a bond issue of $40 million dollars.
  • In 2010, property taxes were increased by a tax levy of 55 cents.
  • In 2010, property taxes were increased by a bond issue of $36 million dollars.

Now, in 2015, voter approval is sought for an additional tax increase of 65 cents and a bond issue increase of $28 million dollars. The district now is seeking its 5th and 6th tax increase all within the past 10 years.

5. What is the effect of cumulative bond issues?

The 2006 and 2010 bond issuances have not been paid off. The costs of these bond issuances are still being paid by the WGSD, and ultimately by tax payers. A third bond issuance acts like a third mortgage, and adds to the cost-per-student expense of the district.

According to the WGSD web-site, it appears that the cost-per-student in the WGSD is $12,063, but when debt service is added, the amount is over $14,600.
This additional amount is because of unpaid bond issues for 2006 and 2010.

Lindbergh School District (LSD) educates its student on a cost-per-student amount of $9,398, well below WGSD and LSD has higher ACT score average of 24 vs. WGSD average of 23.

The better choice is to pay off at least one of the two bond issuances before harnessing the district with a third bond issuance of $28 million.

6. What did the WGSD do with the money it received from the 2010 tax levy?

Approximately 65% of the funds went to salaries, according to the WGSD presentation at Hixson Middle School on February 26, 2015. Among the expenditures, the school district increased salaries by 1.8% annually for the past 5 years.

Of the approximately 700 employees of the WGSD, all of them received raises regardless of merit and regardless of performance. And, all WGSD employees are projected to get raises for the next five years too, if the Proposition passes, according to the WGSD.

In the past five years, WGSD employees – all of them across the board – received a collective 9.329% salary increase. In the next five years, all WGSD employees – all of them across the board – are projected to receive a collective 9.329% salary increase.

7. Are WGSD teachers underpaid?

No, WGSD teachers are not underpaid. Are WG teacher and staff salaries in danger of falling below the St. Louis County median? Prop S proponents claim that passage of a 10.2% residential tax increase is needed for several reasons, including to “maintain teacher and staff salaries at or above the county median.”

WGSD teachers' salaries are not in danger of falling below the county median. Not according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. WGSD teachers are not underpaid; in fact, they are already among the highest paid on average in St. Louis County.

The average WGSD teacher salary is $67,443, plus benefits. From the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education - District and School Information, the average teacher salary among the 22 districts in St. Louis County is $59,633, plus benefits.

The average WGSD teacher salary is the 3rd highest average teacher salary in St. Louis County. WGSD average teachers’ salaries only lag behind Clayton at $72,184 and Kirkwood at $69,322.

What did the WGSD do with the money it already received from the 2010 tax levy? It already spent it on teacher and staff salaries. Approximately 65% of the funds from the 2010 tax levy went to salaries, according to the WGSD. With that money, the school district increased every salary of every employee by 1.8% every year for the past 5 years.

Of the approximately 700 employees of the WGSD, all of them received raises regardless of merit and regardless of performance. And all WGSD employees are projected to get raises for the next five years, too, if Propositions S&W pass, according to the WGSD.

The WGSD teacher salaries far surpass the average teacher salaries in St. Louis County. Here is the link: http://mcds.dese.mo.gov/

8. Are WGSD classes overcrowded?

No, WGSD classes are not overcrowded. One of the claims for passage of Props S&W is that the WG schools are overcrowded. The WGSD website claims that: “passage would alleviate crowding and allow small class sizes.” WGSD classes are under the county and state average student-teacher ratio. According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Webster Groves student-teacher ratio in 2014 was only 15 to 1. The average ratio for St. Louis County schools is 16.5 to 1. The statewide average is 18 to 1.

The WGSD website lists the current enrollment of every school in the district and the “desired” enrollment numbers for each school and class. “Desired” enrollment is not defined. The school district claims that elementary schools are 178 students over their “desired” enrollment capacity. “Desired” enrollment for these buildings is claimed to be 1,899, with actual enrollment of 2,077. But “desired” enrollment is not defined.

FACT: There are 110 elementary classrooms with an average class size of 19 students per class. Is this why we need a 28 million dollar bond issue? Additionally, no one doubts that there is no over-crowding at the middle school or high school levels. In fact, there is room for growth. At Steger, Hixon, and WG High School, there is abundant space, with at least room for an additional 283 students above current levels. The school board already knows the issue of over-crowding is short-lived.

On their own web-site, WGSD admits that the “addition” to Clark Elementary School may not even be needed. The bond issue allocates $1,775,000 but only for the “Clark addition (if needed).” If Webster Groves would adjust its ratio upward to the St. Louis County average of 16.5 students per teacher, the temporary issue of “desired capacity” would be solved without spending $28 million dollars on a bond issue or raising residential property taxes on Webster Groves residents by 10.2%.

If student distribution could be more evenly distributed among the schools to take advantage of available space, the temporary issue of “desired capacity” would be solved without spending $28 million dollars on a bond issue and raising residential property taxes on Webster Groves residents by 10.2%.

9. What is the WGSD budget for 2014-2015?

For 2014-2015, the WGSD budget is $57,065,423. This is an overall increase of 3.10% compared to the previous year of 2013-2014 operating expenditures. And this budget reflects an ending deficit of $1,424,741. http://www.webster.k12.mo.us/pages/WGSD/Departments/District_Departments/Business_Office/Elements/2015_-_2016_Budget/2014_-_2015_Proposed_Budget_Me

10. If the projected deficit for 2015 is $1,424,741, what is the projected deficit for 2016?

Without cuts or planning, the WGSD projected deficit for 2016 is approximately $3 million dollars.

11. Doesn’t the WGSD have a fund balance to cover deficits.

Yes, the WGSD has a large fund balance to cover deficits. In 2014 - 2015, the WGSD will have a projected fund balance of approximately $14 million dollars.

In 2015 - 2016, the WGSD will have a projected fund balance of approximately $12 million dollars.

12. If the WGSD cannot balance its budget, why doesn’t the WGSD use the fund balance to pay the projected deficit for 2016 and delay asking for its 5th and 6th tax increase in 10 years?

???

13. Is raising taxes by Props S & W the best and only remedy for the financial problems facing the WGSD?

No. There are other remedies and other options available to the WGSD. Six tax increases in 10 years is too much. It leads a reasonable observer to conclude that the School District has a spending problem and not a revenue problem. Instead, the WGSD should look at the budget of $57 million and:

  • Unleash the creative powers of the Webster Groves School District to find ideas and cost-conscious solutions within the $57 million dollar budget and utililzing the $14 million dollar fund reserves.
  • Delay wage increases
  • Delay programs and people that are not academic or student or outcome-based improvements
  • Allow for staff attrition
  • Reduce wage increases
  • Reduce expansion plans
  • Delay expansion plans
  • Defer free full-day kindergarten
  • Pay off existing bond issuances of 2006 and 2010 before taking on the burden of a $28 million dollar bond issuance.
  • Allow class sizes to float on a per grade basis above the arbitrary “desired level” but stay below state levels until patterns firmly establish.
  • These are only some of the possible solutions the professional administrators and school board experts can find a solution to the district’s $57 million dollar budget.

14. Vote No Props S & W on April 7th.

In 2005, property taxes were increased by a tax levy of 68 cents. In 2006, property taxes were increased by a bond issue of $40 million dollars. In 2010, property taxes were increased by a tax levy of 55 cents. In 2010, property taxes were increased by a bond issue of $36 million dollars. The bond issuances of 2006 and 2010 have not been paid off.

The costs for these bond issuances are still being paid by the school district, and ultimately by taxpayers. A third bond issuance acts like a third mortgage, and adds ever more to the cost-per-student expense of the district. According to the WGSD web-site, the cost-per-student is $12,063. But when debt service is added, the amount is over $14,000. The additional cost comes from the unpaid balances of the bond issues of 2006 and 2010. A bond issuance in 2015 will further deepen debt service.

Now, in 2015, the school district is seeking another tax increase of 65 cents and another bond issue of $28 million dollars.

The district now is seeking its 5th and 6th tax increase – all within the past 10 years. There are other fiscally sound remedies and options available to the school district without raising our property taxes by 10.2%.

Voters have not been ungenerous with the school district in the past. But a fifth and sixth tax increase in 10 years is too much.

A reasonable, disinterested observer might conclude that the WG School District has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.