If request is approved, issues goes to voters in April election
ALTON -- Alton School Superintendent Sheila Wheeler does not know if the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will accept the school's request for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB). She said the school has done everything to meet the qualifications for the bonds and should know by mid-February if the state will qualify the school district for the bonds. Wheeler said she is fairly confident the bonds will become a reality. She said schools receiving the bonds are evaluated by need, including free and reduced meals at the school.
QZABs were created with the passage of the Taxpayers Relief Act of 1997 and are used as a financial tool to encourage the partnership between public schools and private industry and provide another source of funds for high poverty schools.
Wheeler said Missouri statutes require that the QZAB issue be submitted to voters. If the state approves the Alton School District as eligible for the bonds, she said, the district will ask for $1.5 million and the issue will appear on the April 5 spring and municipal election ballot.
This is not the first time the issue has appeared before the patrons of the Alton School District. It has been on the ballot four times previously. In November 2002 the issue was approved by 52 percent of the voters and in April 2003 by 51 percent. Wheeler said in the spring election the measure must receive votes from 57 percent.
"Our tax levy is one of the lowest in the state. There are only four districts in the entire state that have a lower tax levy than Alton," the superintendent said. The Alton tax levy is currently $2.75 per $100 assessed evaluation; if the measure should pass it would raise it an additional 33 cents per $100 assessed evaluation. "Our tax levy is the lowest in Oregon County and if the issue should pass it would still be the lowest in Oregon County," she said.
Other school tax levies in the county are:
Couch -- $3.36 with a debt service of 61 cents and expenditures of $6,182.93 per pupil
Thayer -- $3.67 with a debt service of 92 cents and expenditurers of $5,791.38 per pupil
Howell-Oregon -- $3.55 with a debt service of 80 cents and expenditures of $6,428.27 per pupil.
The Alton School District has no debt service and has a per pupil expenditure of $5,978.43.
Wheeler said the school district has all but exhausted grant sources and this is not good news with the roof in bad shape on the high school building. "We have worked hard getting the roofs on all are buildings upgraded. We have tried to get away from the flat, rubber roofs," the superintendent said. She added that she thinks the school district has been aggressive in pursuing all avenues of funding. She said the roof on the elementary school was made possible through a school renovation grant.
She said as recently as last week a roofer was called to the school to do some work on the gym portion of the building because of leaks. She said an estimate for a roof on the high school building came to $914,000, far more than the school district can handle.
Wheeler waits from word from the state to see if the bonds will be issued. If they are she said she hopes the community will see the school district's need and pass the issue.