In the spring of 2017, the Gasconade Co R-1 School Board is asking voters once more for a 50 cent increase, which would take the current levy from $2.9856 to $3.48. After the vote failed back in the summer of 2016, the school board is asking that voters come back and reconsider the vote.
With a lack of funds and the ever present supplies the district needs, the tax increase is needed to help pay for expenditures such as supplies, teaching staff salaries, and transportation costs. According to the Missouri State Auditor’s records, last summer’s proposed (and failed) increase to the Gasconade Co R-1 School district was the first in over 30 years.
The district falls short among the other schools in the area in terms of teacher salaries, total levy price, and the average expenditures per student. For example, the Missouri State average expenditure per student for the year 2016 was $10,567. The Gasconade Co R-1 School District’s was $8,285. The district falls 8-to-8 in the Four Rivers Conference on the rate of the minimum bachelor’s degree teacher’s salary ($31,660) and 5-to-8 on highest bachelor’s degree salary ($44,810), as well as 8-of-8 for the top master’s degree salary ($48,710).
Angela Elder from the school’s technology department added, “Our budget is half of Owensville.”
With low salaries for teachers, the retainment of staff can become an issue. “We need to communicate that we need competitive salaries to keep teachers,” Gasconade Co R-1 superintendent Tracy Hankins said. “There has been no tax levy for salaries.”
In an effort to inform the district as to why the district would benefit from the tax levy, staff, community members, and parents organized Kids First. Kids First has both a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/kidsfirsthermann, and a Twitter profile, @K1dsF1rst, where anyone interested can find information about the tax levy.
In the group’s most recent brochure, they stated, “Keeping teachers for several years can help build student-teacher relationships to help the children develop, but also creates motivation behind teacher’s earning a master’s degree in their field to teach dual credit classes at the high school.”
Along with teacher’s salaries, the schools are in need of new equipment to educate in the classroom.
“We want to launch a 1:1 Program for 9th and 5th grade, and we’ve only been able to implement that into the 5th grade,” Elder says in reference to the school trying to provide Google Chromebooks for each student. “The planned [state] cuts are only supposed to be for transportation, but we still have to pay for it somehow.”
“It’s not just for us, it’s for you guys,” Elder said in reference to the district’s students.
The tax increase will also go towards transportation funds. Hermann has the 13th largest bus route in the entire state - 1,100 miles every day.
Recently, as a result of a lawsuit between the state and tobacco companies, Greitens is adding $11 million back into the transportation budget.
“While this still has to be approved by the Missouri General Assembly, this proposed money may not be reliable,” said Dr. Hankins.
Currently, with new proposed state tax cuts, the district will lose thousands of dollars that is needed to pay for safe and efficient bus routes. Of the $704,000 needed for transportation costs, the state will only give $70,000. While this is not the set state budget yet, the likeliness of it is causing school districts to make the proper preparations.
“We have to do what is right,” Hankins said.
The vote will take place in April 2017.