The Marshall Public Schools Facility Committee met Monday evening to review its prepared presentation for civic groups, discussing with whom to speak and addressing several questions already raised by community members.
Getting an early start, the committee made its first informational presentation Monday to the Marshall Lions Club. Committee Chairman George Clemens said the meeting was a good start, but the committee needs to find more groups to speak to.
"We want to see as many people in small group settings as possible," he said.
One group in particular with which Clemens wants to meet is the district's teachers, and the sooner the better.
"The voting public is going to consider the teachers the experts," Clemens said.
Plans were made to meet with teachers, building by building, after school hours. Because state law prohibits using school time or money to promote the bond issue, it was asked if teachers could answer questions about it, if asked, during upcoming parent-teacher conferences. There were also some questions about distributing a promotional pamphlet at schools during the conferences.
"It's a mistake to promote a bond issue on school time," said Marshall Superintendent of Schools Joe Aull. "But it's an equal mistake not to educate the public about it."
In the end, it was decided questions could be answered and the pamphlets will be left on a table, allowing those who are interested to take one if they wish.
Clemens said the first presentation raised two questions which need to be answered before future presentations.
The first concerned how to explain the size of the levy needed to pay off the bond issue. Committee members expressed concerns that many voters who don't deal regularly with finances might not gain any benefit from additional information.
"'Debt service' is a foreign term for a lot of people," said Clay Mead.
The district currently maintains a debt service levy, the portion of the levy used to pay off outstanding bond debt, of 36 cents. The levy is set to expire in 2004, but if voters approve the bond issue on April 8 this levy would be extended over the life of the new 20-year bonds. To do this, an increase of around 40 cents will also be needed.
Aull said for most people the amount of the levy is not as important as the increase in their taxes. For a home valued at $50,000, the new levy represents a yearly increase of $38 over what is currently paid, he said. A $50,000 business would see an increase of $64 per year and a farm property assessed at $50,000 would have its annual taxes increase by $24.
Aull also discussed future implications of the levy increase. He said some districts are able to promote bond issues which require no levy increase. He said "no increase" issues are based on extending current levies. If, over time, Marshall's levy is increased enough, the district would be able to make future improvements, such as the construction of a new middle school, as a "no increase" project.
"But right now our levy is so low, we can't do that," Aull said.
Clemens' other question was how the levy increase would affect the amount of local tax dollars spent per pupil. Currently, Marshall spends $1,530 per pupil, the lowest of any district in the area. With the levy increase, the district's locally-generated funding would increase to $1,698 per pupil.
Of the county's K-12 districts, Malta Bend currently spends $2,428 local dollars per student, Slater spends $1,812 and Sweet Springs spends $1,649. Regionally, Warrensburg's levy generates $2,631 per student, Moberly's generates $2,118 and Sedalia's generates $1,669.