Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tax Rate Rises for Hickman Mills, No Hike for Grandview City or Schools


 The City of Grandview, Grandview C-4 School District, and Hickman Mills C-1 School District all recently set their tax levy rates and examined their revenues for the fiscal year.
While Grandview’s city and school boards decided to keep their tax levy rates steady, Hickman Mills decided to raise its rate.

Grandview tax levy steady
by Seann McAnally • JC Advocate
Grandview’s property tax levy for 2011 will remain the same.
The Board of Aldermen on Sept. 27 unanimously passed an ordinance that establishes a levy of $1 per $100 of assessed valuation for general purposes, 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for debt service, and 12 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for park maintenance. Those taxes will be collected as revenue for 2012.
Alderman Jim Crain said he was proud that Grandview has not effectively raised taxes in decades.
According to Jackson County records, the final 2011 aggregate assessed valuation for the city is $258,787,123. That’s a 2.54 percent decrease from 2010, which was $265,539,937.
Shirley Moses, director of finance, told the board at a September public hearing that the decrease was due to declining property values across the Metro area.
The tax rate is the maximum allowed by Missouri law. 

Hickman Mills C-1 tax Levy Increases
 By Mary Kay Morrow • JC Advocate
The Hickman Mills C-1 school district raised its debt service levy, hoping to maintain revenues while facing a downgraded bond rating from A+ to A with a negative outlook, as well as a low level of reserves.  Meanwhile, bond refinancing and an energy conservation program have been approved to help the district save money.
The C-1 levy was raised by a nickel per $100 of assessed value bringing the total levy to $6.3217. The debt service increase from 80 cents to 85 cents means that taxpayers with a $100,000 home whose value has not changed will pay approximately $9.50 more to support their schools this year.
“The average homeowner won’t see much change because valuations went down,” said Associate Superintendent of Business Mitch Nutterfield. “We are not raising the rate to get more money, we are raising it to get the same amount.”
Administrators told the board they are projecting a $3.73 million operating budget deficit for 2011-12. The big question looming next year, administrators say, is what will make up federal money that will go away in 2012-13 if there is no additional federal stimulus money.
“We will amend [the budget] throughout the year as things change,” Nutterfield said.
Last year, the district saw job cuts and building consolidation due to deficit predictions, only to see the district finish the year with a $2 million operating surplus. Board Member Breman Anderson, Jr. voted in June against a preliminary budget saying he hoped the board would be given information in the future to guide decisions.
This time, the board voted six-to-zero to approve the 2011-12 fiscal budget.  Board Vice-President George Flesher was absent for the vote.
The tax levy increase comes at a time when the district has slim reserves, with a projected year-end reserve of just 4.591%.  State auditors generally like to see a three-month reserve, but prefer a safety net of 24 percent, and put districts that drop below 4% on a watch list.
To save money during current favorable market conditions, in July, the Hickman board approved a “Go To Market” resolution to refinance the district’s Series 2003 General Obligation Bond, valued at $15,975,000, at lower interest rates.
September 27, the Board of Education approved a resolution that split the bond into two pieces to refund $9.65 million of the bond now, saving the district $1.4 million. Flesher was absent during the vote.
“My plan would be to follow up in early 2012 with the refunding of the balance of this 2003 issue, and our preliminary indications would be, if the market doesn’t change radically, we could save another half million dollars on that issue,” said Nutterfield.
On the refinanced issue, the school board’s rating was downgraded from A+ to A with a negative outlook.
“Since the financial meltdown that we had in ’07, investors are interested in having a rating on the school district itself, separate and apart from the state program,” Nutterfield explained. 
Hickman had an A rating through the early 2000’s that was upgraded to A+ in 2003.
“I knew that there was some risk of a downgrade on this issue due to the under-performance in your assessed valuation which was under no control of the district, and also there is a sizeable planned drawdown in this year’s budget that is, in all likelihood, unavoidable as well.” 
The “negative outlook” classification could be removed in the next nine to twelve months if the district successfully adopts a balanced budget or a slight surplus for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.
“If your FY 2012 budget holds to form, you’re going to end up with a fund balance somewhere in the 4 percent range.  Your ability to sustain additional deficits is going to be seriously challenged,” Nutterfield said.  “They [investors] want to see how you’re going to address that issue in FY 2013 and beyond.” 
In another effort to save money, the Hickman board joined other school districts by agreeing to work with Energy Education, a firm that works with organizations to change behaviors that conserve energy and reduce utility bills.
The adoption is expected to save the district some $440,000 annually in energy costs.  Nutterfield said the idea of the program is revenue neutral.
“We’re going to have to start looking along those lines of what you can do to realize some savings with existing structures that we have, even though our buildings are old,” said Superintendent Dr. Marge Williams.  “Without having to go into the operating budget … I think it’s something we want to do….knowing that down the line, you’re going to save thousands of dollars.”

Grandview c-4 rate remains the same
By Paul Thompson
• JC Advocate
The Grandview C-4 School District will not raise their operating or debt levy this year. The school board unanimously voted on September 22 to maintain their total tax levy at $5.8936 per $100 assessed valuation, opting not to raise the $.80 levy for the debt services fund. The $5.0936 levy for the operating funds was already at the maximum allowed by the state of Missouri without voter approval.
The assessed valuation for 2011 slipped some 2% from 2010 levels, falling from $432,544,063 to $424,351,578 in 2011. Those figures represent an $8,192,485 reduction from last year.
Despite the reductions, however, the C-4 school board felt that they would be able to meet their debt service needs in 2011 without raising the debt levy.
Assistant Superintendant of Operations and Finance Ann Marie Cook explained that a raised levy could be too burdensome for taxpayers in an already difficult economy.
 “The adopted levy of $.80 is aligned with projections from our bond counsel and will meet our debt service needs for the current year, while maintaining consideration of the fiscal impact on the taxpayers in our district.”

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