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Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Order of Business for Mehlville School District is to Cut Spending - Greg Frigerio

Letter to the Editor - Call Newspapers
January 19, 2011

To the editor:

It is time to end the dog-and-pony show regarding cut and spend.

The first order of business is how to reduce expenses. According to the Call, it was approximately a year ago that Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch projected that the Mehlville School District would deplete its operating reserve by 2013 due to a combination of flat tax revenue and state aid tax cuts.

The administrators and the school board think that by spending cuts and spend downs they can get at least to $4.8 million to balance the budget.

The superintendent thinks the board knows the district will not be able to take the $4.8 million right off the top in cuts. So the district will spend down, in other words, withdrawing funds from the operating reserve in combination with cuts to achieve the $4.8 million in moneys needed to balance the budget.

On the district's website there is a contingency plan that identifies approximately $6.8 million in spending cuts. This includes eliminating free bus service. That is another topic for later discussion. If that line item is removed, that still leaves $4.6 million in spending cuts. So can't the board take at least $4.6 million right off the top?

I am not a finance expert, but taking money out of the operating fund below the comfort level of Mr. Knobloch does not seem to be a responsible proposition to me, even if one board member isn't concerned with the bond rating of the district.

The Board of Education should first give the directive to the administration that by March 31 of 2011, it is to have a plan, in writing with specifics, which eliminates 5 percent of expenses from each operations budget.

Sure it's hard, most every business and individual is in the same condition, but that is the reality of how the state of the economy is today and for the foreseeable future. Only when the list of cuts is addressed should they consider reaching into the cookie jar.

The Board of Education should also keep in mind where 62 percent of the school district's taxpayers stand on the district's money issues.

Greg Frigerio


Editor's note: Greg Frigerio serves as treasurer of the Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association, a grassroots, nonpartisan organization that opposed the Mehlville School District's Proposition C.

Rejection of Prop C Result of Board's Failure to Listen

By Mike Anthony - Call Newspapers

January 19, 2011 - In his classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues,'' Bob Dylan sang: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.''

Pretty much the same could be said of the Mehlville School District's Proposition C, an 88-cent tax-rate increase that more than 62 percent of voters rejected in the Nov. 2 election.

Immediately after the defeat, Mehlville leaders said they would ask the community why more than 23,000 voters rejected Prop C.

Really? Despite the assertions of some proponents, including Board of Education members, that Prop C had a solid chance of being approved by voters, nothing could have been further from the truth.

We don't want to come across as mean-spirited, but board members' unwillingness to listen to reason and common sense blinded them Aug. 19 when they voted 6-0 — Vice President Venki Palamand was absent — to place Prop C on the ballot.

Board members initially were contemplating placing a 94-cent tax-rate increase on the ballot. During an Aug. 14 retreat, Palamand suggested that if the board sought a 47-cent tax-rate increase — half of 94 cents — it could still generate $75 million for capital projects by dedicating 30 cents of that levy to capital expenses.

That suggestion didn't sit too well with board President Tom Diehl and then-board member Karl Frank Jr., who resigned after Prop C's defeat.

This newspaper suggested in an Aug. 19 column that Mehlville voters would support a reasonable tax-rate increase if they were given the opportunity. We wrote that Palamand's suggestion of a 47-cent tax-rate increase "may be a stretch, but we believe it would be more in the ballpark of what residents are willing to support. We encourage the board to consider a reasonable tax-rate increase and avoid a repeat of 2006's Prop A — a 97-cent tax-rate increase that was thoroughly trounced by voters.''

We wrote that any ballot measure proposed by the board would have a huge hurdle to overcome given the public's dissatisfaction with its handling of Superintendent Terry Noble's contract — since relinquished — that provided him a roughly $44,000 raise. After the defeat of Prop C, the board accepted Noble's retirement, effective on June 30.

Before the board voted Aug. 19 to place Prop C on the ballot, former school board President Ken Leach told the current board that a 94-cent tax-rate increase "has the same odds of passing as a lottery winner getting struck by lightning.''

But the board went ahead and voted 6-0 to place Prop C on the ballot.

We recently learned that Dan Fowler, co-chair of the Facilitating Team for the district's community-engagement effort, privately urged board and district leadership to remove Prop C from the ballot.

In this week's issue, the Call's Evan Young reports that a recent district survey found Prop C failed last November primarily because the ballot measure asked for too much money at the wrong time.

Really? Though the survey is an unscientific one, we agree with incoming Superintendent Eric Knost, who termed it a "learning tool."

At last summer's board retreat, Palamand contended there would be a "real cost to losing'' if a tax-rate increase did not pass in November.

It's too bad his fellow board members didn't listen to him or the community.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Committee to Restore the Pride Refuses to Comply with Missouri Law

The Committee to Restore the Pride, the group that promoted the Mehlville School District's 88-cent tax-rate increase has neglected to file its latest campaign disclosure. This report was due 30 days after the Nov. 2 election.

According to St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners, the Pride Committee is in violation of Missouri campaign law. What is the problem? Don't you want the citizens to know who stuck all that money in your pocket?