In order to fill a gap left by state budget cuts, Liberty Public Schools will ask voters to increase the district’s mill levy by 7 percent in November.
At its monthly meeting on Aug. 19, the Board of Education unanimously approved putting a 36-cent levy increase on the Nov. 5 ballot. District spokesman Dallas Ackerman said the levy would raise $28 million for classroom expansion at several schools as well as technology upgrades. The levy, in part, comes as an answer to cuts in the state’s annual payment, he said.
“There’s a lot of financial pressure due to funding reductions at both the state and federal levels,” Ackerman said.
State spending cuts took about $68.9 million statewide from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, department spokeswoman Sarah Potter said. About $4 million of that came from Liberty Public Schools.
If voters approve the increase, the school district’s levy would rise to $5.26 per $100 of assessed property valuation. The school district says the levy hike would cost an extra $160.80 per year for a taxpayer with a $200,000 house and $20,000 in personal property.
The district’s chief financial and operations officer, Carol Embree, said in an email that the levy would have no sunset date, but the Board of Education could reduce it at any time.
The levy would fund additional classrooms at several schools, including Kellybrook Elementary, Lewis and Clark Elementary, Shoal Creek Elementary, Warren Hills Elementary, Liberty Middle School and Liberty North High School. Most of these schools currently use outdoor, modular classroom units for additional space, Ackerman said. Liberty North has 22 classrooms in those units.
The levy also would fund an outdoor track at Liberty North High as well as additional space for physical and wellness education and a new gym at Liberty High School. Kindergarteners through eighth-graders would get better technology and many district building would receive security upgrades, Ackerman said.
Part of the the levy would pay to convert the District Administration Center into a new elementary school and move administrative offices to the Blue Jay Tower.
As the district’s student population continues to grow, Ackerman said these additional classrooms are vital. The district now has about 11,600 students and is projected to grow above 14,000 by 2020.
In 2011 the board proposed a levy that voters rejected. It would have sunset in 20 years. The district is more hopeful this levy will pass because it is less than the 43 cent increase proposed in 2011 and it wouldn’t fund a district-wide stadium that was part of the 2011 proposal, Ackerman said.
“We’re looking for private funding for that now, so it won’t be part of this,” he said.