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HSD Explains District Tax Levies, Legislative Advocacy Committee During April 19 Meeting

The Hazelwood School District Board of Education also heard first reading of a couple revised policies, said goodbye to a 12-year board member and hello to a newcomer.

Despite some severe weather Tuesday, April 19, the (HSD) Board of Education still held its regularly scheduled meeting. As raindrops and other sounds of the storm could be heard on the rooftop, the meeting was business a usual with a summation of the district's legislative advocacy committee topping the agenda.

The legislative advocacy committee's goal is to engage the community in the development of a legislative platform for HSD. Assistant Superintendent for Communications Diana Gulotta gave the presentation that discussed the number of times the committee met and topics discussed, which included open enrollment, public school funding, a general overview of the legislative process and formation of a district platform.

Gulotta said the group consists of area parents, taxpayers, businesses, government, school board members, school personnel and other cooperating school districts.  She added the meeting format is similar to those held during the intial stages of Hazelwood 1st--the process that developed the district's long-range facilities plan.

"Next year we want to begin it earlier in the school year that way we will be able to have a lot of work done prior to the legislative session beginning in the spring," she said. "Unfortunately we were not successful in securing more than one (legislative) RSVP to our meetings. We were disappointed in that but we're certainly not going to give up.

According to Gulotta, goals for next year include beginning to draft a platform along with getting more legislators actively involved in attending the meetings.

"We really want them there because the committee was really anxious to get the legislators in the room," she said. "We're the district, we're the governing body, but they're the people who vote and they were really excited about having that face-to-face time. But it didn't work out.

Board member Karlton Thornton suggested using new technology including Skype for those legislators and community members that could not be present in the building but would still want to participate in the legislative advocacy meetings.

During Tuesday's meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Facilities Dwight Lindhorst also gave a presentation regarding the district's tax rate. The reason for this was some residents' concerns that he said he believed was due to a series of coincidental but unrelated events confusing the district tax rates.

"Some taxpayers, I believe, are confused about the tax rate increase and linking it to Proposition H," he said. "Even some were accusing the district of being misleading. So, we wanted to give people some facts and clarify Proposition H and the tax rate, and the difference between the two."

HSD has two separate tax rates. There is an operating tax and a debt service tax rate.

The operating tax rate pays for everything required to operate the schools and the district including salaries, benefits, utilities, supplies, textbooks, repairs, ongoing technology and recurring expenditures.

The debt service tax rate can only be used to make principal and interest payments on outstanding bonds that voters approve, which pertains to the Hazelwood First measures including Proposition H that was passed last November. Bonds are issued for large, one time, capital expenditures such as building a new school, extensive renovations, and heating and air conditioning systems, among other things.

Lindhorst said that the Proposition H bond issue HSD voters approved in November 2010 did not result in a tax increase as many residents have since expressed concern regarding, because it is a debt service tax.

"Our debt service tax levy in 2009 was 94 cents. In 2010, then our assessed valuation dropped. When assessed valuation goes up, the district is required to drop the tax levy," Lindhorst said. "Conversely, the last couple cycles, when assessed valuation goes down, all taxing districts are allowed to raise the operating tax rate in order to stay revenue neutral. That is collect about the same amount revenue as the previous year."

Timeline Sep. 28, 2010 HSD held public hearing on tax rate, HSD Board of Education approved rates. Sep. 29, 2010 HSD submits tax rates to St. Louis County Collector. Oct. 2010 St. Louis County prepares property tax bills. Nov. 4, 2010 Voters approve Proposition H. Nov. 5-6, 2010 St. Louis County mails property tax bills.

Lindhorst said that in 2010 assessed valuation dropped 4.4 percent, which allowed the district to raise the operating tax rate. The debt service levy for 2011, which pertains to Proposition H and all bond issues, remains the same amount it was in 2010.

including incumbents Charles “Chuck” Woods and Ann Gibbons, along with board newcomer, Brenda Youngblood, were sworn in to their positions at the board meeting, as well.

The board also held office elections, which switched up the hierarchy of the group. Cheryl Latham was voted in board president, Karlton Thornton was named vice president, Ann Gibbons remained treasurer, and Charles “Chuck” Woods was voted secretary.

The board also heard first reading of policy for the JGGA/New – Seclusion, Isolation and Restraint process, which pertains to how the school district addresses students and the use of discipline and behavior management techniques.

The goal of the policy is to provide school personnel with clear guidelines about the use of seclusion, isolation and restraint in response to emergency situations. It should also provide parents or guardians information about state guidelines and district policies related to the use of discipline, behavior management, behavior interventions and responses to emergency situations. 

HSD, along with all other Missouri school district boards of education are required to have this policy approved and in place by July 1. This is the result of bill the governor signed into law on July 31, 2009.  This law is now found in Section 160.263 RSMo (Revised Statutes of MO).

In other news, Hazelwood School District Board of Education:

  • heard the first reading of policy for the staff grievance process.
  • recognized Ann Gibbons for 30 years of service as a board of education member.
  • said goodbye to Diane Dowdy, who stepped down from 12 years as a board member.
  • approved contracts for a supplier diversity program consultant, a construction hazardous materials consultant, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab architect and the ACE Alternative Education program.

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