Additional School Building Improvements are Underfunded
This article is the fifth in a six part series that will be published as we begin the 2018-2019 school year. The focus of these articles will be our fiscal, infrastructure, and facility accomplishments, as well as our current status and future challenges. The first article (part 1) focused on our financial history over the past three years and the concept of financial rightsizing; the second article focused on changes in Career and Technical Education; the third article focused on the condition of our Technical Center and Agriculture facilities; and the fourth article focused on the educational benefit of moving our Technical Center to Buffalo. This article will focus on educational facility funding and comparisons to other districts in our former and current conferences. The final article will include Part 6, our financial challenges and our district’s story.
Public schools in Missouri are funded by federal, state, and local sources of revenue. Federal revenue accounts for around 14% of the Dallas County R-I revenue. When we receive federal revenue it must be spent in specific areas (Special Education, Title programs, Career and Technical Education). Revenue from the State of Missouri makes up around 46% of the district’s revenue. These state revenues are the foundation formula and proposition C. The formula monies come from state income tax revenues and from gaming monies. The vast majority of the foundation formula must be spent on teacher salaries and benefits; however, a local district can spend most of the gaming revenue on almost any expenditure. The gaming revenue accounts for less than 10% of the formula revenue. The state revenue also includes Proposition C monies. Proposition C monies are from state sales tax and can be spent on general expenditures or teacher salaries and benefits. Finally, local revenue makes up 40% of the district’s overall revenue. These monies are from property taxes. When these tax rates are approved by the voters, that ballot issue must state if the revenue is for operating funds or for the debt-service fund (bond repayment).
In the Dallas County R-I School district we do not have any local taxes in our debt-service fund since the district does not have any current municipal bonds. Based upon our records, it has been over 35 years since the district has had any bond debt. Municipal bonds are the primary mechanism that school districts and government entities use to build and improve facilities in the State of Missouri. This is very similar to a mortgage on a home or land. When approved by voters, the funds for a bond can only be spent to repay the bonds as set forth in the ballot language; bonds always have a sunset determined by when the bonds are paid off. A district can also run a ballot use for a special purpose levy to achieve a similar purpose. This can be done by stating the purpose of the levy is to a fund the lease-purchase of a building or property. In addition, the ballot language can also state a sunset of the levy based upon when the lease purchase is paid off. If a school district states the purpose of additional funding on the ballot we can only use those funds for what the ballot states.
The chart below compares the DCR1 tax rates to the other school districts in our current conference, our future conference, and our former conference. We are the only district of the 13 districts below that does not have a debt service levy and our average levy is considerably lower than the average. The reason we cannot build new buildings as other area districts have done, is we do not have a debt service levy and our district is underfunded locally.
School Tax Rate Comparison Central Ozark Conference Small (COC) and Ozark Mountain Conference (OMC)
We were members of the COC Small through 2017-2018
We are members of the OMC beginning in 2018-2019
**OMC beginning 2020-2021
Debt Service Levy
Dallas County R-I
Dallas County R-I Status
Dallas County is the only district listed that has a Career and Technical Center. Our district is able to send about five times the number of students to specialized programs at Dallas County Technical Center as other districts. However, we are responsible for all facility costs for DCTC. We cannot include facility costs in the tuition other sending districts pay for their students.
The Dallas County R-I school district is at a point where we have done as much as is financially possible to improve our facilities. Without additional local tax revenue we will be forced to close Dallas County Technical Center in Louisburg within the next five years, and we will have to make difficult decisions regarding our Agriculture building. It will not be the choice of the district to close these buildings or these programs, but rather the choice that would be made for the district. One or more of the facility issues in the Louisburg facility and/or the agriculture building could force the district to close these buildings and their programs. Our local funding for our facilities is simply inadequate. These buildings are well maintained and appear healthy from the exterior; however, underneath there are serious structural and mechanical issues that are financially prohibitive to fix. These buildings have served their purposes far beyond their designed lifespan. The cost to repair these structures in their current locations would be more than to rebuild them, and rebuilding them in their current location would require the closure of the programs for up to two years and it simply does not make educational sense.
In two weeks I will be writing the final article in this series. The last article will be Part 6, our financial challenges and our district’s story. If you have missed any of these articles they can all be found at www.bisonpride.org under the “About Us” tab.
Support our local schools, we can’t afford not to! Believe in Buffalo!
Tim Ryan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Dallas County R-I School District