The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 27, 2013

Joplin School Board lines up against passage of tax-cut bill

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Board of Education is the latest school district in Missouri to come out in opposition to House Bill 253.

Board members unanimously voted Tuesday night to write letters to local legislators and ask them not to override the governor’s veto of the bill that would cut state income and business taxes.

Superintendent C.J. Huff said he is “very concerned” about the bill’s potential impact to education.

“We try not to get involved in politics, but from our perspective, the end result could be a very negative result for our school district in terms of current and future revenues,” he said.

The bill was approved in the spring by the Legislature and subsequently vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, who has said the bill would divert hundreds of millions of dollars from public education. Legislators could override his veto during their fall session.

According to data provided to the Missouri Association of School Administrators from the governor’s office, passage of the bill could result in a loss of $1.7 million to $3 million annually to the Joplin School District.

But the financial impact could stretch beyond those numbers, said Paul Barr, the district’s chief financial officer.

Implementation of the bill could cut funding to statewide mental health and autism programs, which could reduce support for special-needs students in the district, he said.

Barr also said that if the bill results in the downgrading of the state’s credit rating from AAA to AA, there could be an additional $900,000 in interest costs per $10 million in bonds for the local district. That would translate into an additional $5.4 million in interest on the district’s $62 million bond issue that voters approved in April 2012 for the construction of new schools in the wake of the tornado, he said.

With the motion to draft letters to legislators, Joplin joins a growing list of school districts — including in this area Branson, Aurora, Diamond, Logan-Rogersville, Lebanon, Nixa and Springfield — whose boards have also either written letters of opposition or approved resolutions urging lawmakers to sustain the governor’s veto.

In other business Tuesday, the board set the school district’s property tax rate for the year.

The rate, $3.66 per $100 of assessed valuation, is the same rate the district set last year. By law, the district must set the operating levy at a minimum $2.75. The other 91 cents is for debt service.

Under the current rate, the owner of a $100,000 house pays about $695 a year in school taxes.

No one spoke on the proposed rate during a public hearing preceding the board’s regular meeting.

Other business

The Board of Education approved $131,855 for playground equipment at Irving and Soaring Heights schools; set the tuition rate for nonresident students at $6,192 for the 2013-14 academic year; and approved a portable dental program, in collaboration with Access Family Care, that will provide dental services to Joplin students.

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