With about 38% of the “Yes” vote in the Aug. 8 special election, Proposition S was not been approved by Kearney School District residents, according to unofficial results provided by officials in Clay and Clinton counties. This means that we will not move forward with our plans to hire three additional safety and security staff members and to improve staff pay and benefits.
“I appreciate everyone in our community who engaged with us on the Prop S ballot measure and who turned out to vote,” Superintendent Emily Miller said. “We know tax increases are never easy. While the results are disappointing, we will maintain our focus on being among the very best pre-K-12 institutions in the state. Our students deserve nothing less.”
The results of the election will be officially certified during the Aug. 16 Board of Education meeting. Safety and security and staff compensation remain KSD’s two highest strategic priorities as determined by the district’s staff, parents/guardians, students and neighbors. KSD will continue to work with community members to help address those needs.Why is KSD seeking this levy increase? Expand KSD’s annual audits resulted in no areas of deficiency. It’s been about a dozen years since the most recent levy increase. Our levy rate is currently the lowest among our 12 peer public school districts. If Proposition S is approved, our levy rate will be eighth among those districts.One of our strategic objectives is to finish each fiscal year with a 17-22% general fund balance. Maintaining this level of fund balance allows KSD to continue operation in the event of a budget shortfall at the local, state, or federal level.
Just like every business that provides a product or service, we have experienced the impact of inflation on our operating expenses. Unlike a private business, we don’t have the ability to simply pass that cost on. While it’s true that property assessments have risen, KSD can only increase its revenue by about 5% annually under state law (specifically, the Missouri Hancock Amendment). KSD’s levy is lowered if the projected revenue increase exceeds that limit. As the chart below shows, our levy has decreased over the past five years.
KSD’s levy rate will be less than it was in 2018 if Proposition S is approved. A levy increase would be used toward district safety and security, as well as staff compensation.How will KSD use this levy increase? Expand
DOWNLOAD: Prop S Focus – Safe Schools
Safety and security are a source of real concern for our students, parents/guardians, staff and community members. Alarming incidents seem to happen on an almost weekly basis around the country. Thankfully, we’ve avoided any serious incidents in KSD. But the message received from our strategic planning survey was loud and clear: parents/guardians, staff and students identified safety and security as among our most important priorities.
We’ve spent time over the last year taking a close look at our safety and security policies, procedures and measures. Steps have been taken to make improvements within our current resources, including updates to our entry procedures and the relaunch of our collaboration with local law enforcement agencies. Our team engaged in this work concluded that adding safety personnel would be a priority moving forward.
We currently have one School Resource Officer (SRO). This person has operational authority over nine campuses and the central office. Response time during an incident could be as much as 10 minutes.
A portion of the levy increase would be used to add up to three additional safety and security team members, which would reduce response time by about 75 percent. Each of those staff members would be assigned to specific schools. At the same time, these staff members would also be able to coordinate in response to a potential major incident.
We anticipate that the cost to retain three additional safety and security team members will cost approximately $220,000 annually.
DOWNLOAD: Prop S Focus – Staff Support
The latest academic achievement data places KSD in the top eight percent of the 553 public school districts in Missouri. This data is included in the 2022 Annual Performance Report (APR) released earlier this year by the State’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
DESE’s report accumulates results from a battery of standardized academic exams given to students starting in the third grade as part of the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP). KSD students scored in the top three on 15 out of the 19 MAP and End-of-Course exams among our 12 peer school districts. That put our students in first place for English Language Arts and Science, and second in math. We were fourth among peer districts in social studies.
KSD’s students consistently demonstrate academic mastery in comparison with our peer districts. Our levy rate is the lowest and our teacher and support staff compensation is below several of our peer districts.
Under the 2023-2024 salary schedule, KSD teachers will be paid between $41,894 as a starting salary and a maximum salary of $81,127 (which is only available to teachers with at least two Master’s degrees and at least 33 years of experience). KSD’s teachers have an average of 15 years of experience. In 2022, several teachers resigned from KSD to take positions with our peer districts with higher compensation. They had an average of 18 years of experience and a cumulative 107 years of teaching under their belts. We also had 13 certified staff members choose to retire this year, and retirements have increased steadily over the last three school years. The number of KSD certified staff who have opted to leave education altogether has increased significantly since the 2020-2021 academic year. At the same time, there is a well-documented shortage of candidates in the teacher employment pool. Fewer people are choosing to pursue or maintain careers in public education.
One of the strategic priorities created by our community members is to “prioritize all employees by increasing compensation and benefits to rank no lower than 5 out of 12 peer districts by 2025.” If the proposed 45-cent levy increase is approved on Aug. 8, the additional revenue will also be used to increase compensation for our teachers and other employees. We anticipate that this investment will cost approximately $2 million.How will this impact my property taxes? Expand
DOWNLOAD: Prop S Focus – Finance
The average market value for homes within Kearney School District is approximately $250,000, according to the Clay County Assessor’s Office. Only 19% of the county’s appraised valuation is subject to the levy for residential properties. The levy rate is applied to every $100 of that discounted amount.
Residential Property Tax Calculation:
([COUNTY APPRAISAL x 19%]/$100) x LEVY RATE = TAX BILL
This means that a 45-cent levy increase will equal $214 more in taxes per year (approximately $17.83 per month) for the owner of a residential property with a county-appraised valuation of $250,000 in KSD.
Property assessments have risen for many people in our community over the past two years. This is in part due to the efforts by county authorities to ensure that their property valuations are aligned with the market. When property values increase, KSD is only allowed by state law to see a five percent increase in property tax revenue as a result. The Board of Education is required to roll back the levy rate so that we don’t exceed that mandated limit.What else do I need to know about this election? Expand
If you wish to vote absentee by mail, your ballot must be received by your county Board of Elections by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26. Two weeks prior to an election, you may vote with a no-excuse absentee ballot in person at your county Board of Elections office. When voting with an absentee ballot in person, you must show an acceptable form of photo ID. Visit the Missouri Secretary of State website to learn more about absentee ballots.
More Voting Information:Frequently Asked Questions Expand
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