By Kelsey Ryan
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Gov. Jay Nixon at a news conference Thursday afternoon announced state funding of up to $1.5 million for the Joplin School District to offset a projected drop in property tax revenue as a result of the damage wreaked by the May 22 tornado.
The announcement was prompted by preliminary assessed valuation figures given to the school district by the Jasper County and Newton County assessors.
District officials have estimated a revenue shortfall of $750,000 to $1.5 million because of the tornado, which destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and businesses in Joplin and Duquesne.
Without the state funding, state and local officials said, the district would have had to contemplate raising the local operating and debt-service levies to meet financial needs for fiscal year 2012. The current total levy is $3.31 per $100 of assessed valuation. That levy rate, for purposes of example, costs the owner of a home with a $100,000 market value almost $630 per year in school taxes.
“Raising taxes on Joplin residents and businesses at this critical time would hurt the recovery and simply isn’t an option,” Nixon said.
Nearly 60 percent of the district’s revenue comes from property taxes, according to Superintendent C.J. Huff.
“In addition to the devastating impact the storm had on families and businesses, it also dealt a terrible blow to the property tax base of this community,” Nixon said. “Property taxes fund critical services, like roads, health care and local schools. The impact of this damage to the property tax base this year is very, very real. In residential property taxes in Jasper County alone, the loss will be nearly $790,000.”
The governor said the full extent of the loss from commercial property taxes and from taxes in Newton County is still unknown. He said money for future fiscal years would be decided later since the district will need time for planning and budgeting for permanent buildings.
Huff said officials hope that the district will be able to rebuild and be operating in permanent school buildings within three years.
Nixon reserved $150 million in the budget for the current fiscal year to aid in disaster recovery in Missouri.
After the news conference, the governor toured Joplin High School’s 11th- and 12th-grade center in the former Shopko store at Northpark Mall.
THE JOPLIN SCHOOL DISTRICT is anticipating that 92 percent of its 7,747 students will return for the term that begins Wednesday, according to Superintendent C.J. Huff.