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Not all have direct investments in JCPS, but all can have electoral power

Not all have direct investments in JCPS, but all can have electoral power

March 19th, 2017 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

In this Jan. 23, 2017 file photo, Jefferson City Public Schools Superintendent Larry Linthacum speaks at a public meeting at East Elementary School.

Photo by Emil Lippe /Fulton Sun.

POLL: How do you plan to vote on Jefferson City Public Schools' Propositions J (65-cent property tax increase to build second high school and renovate existing) and C (45-cent increase to operating levy)?

There are certain groups of people in the community who may not have as much of a direct stake in the local public schools system as others — and people for whom an increase in tax rates may have more of an immediate impact on their budgets.

Parents of parochial school students; people who don't have kids in any school in the area; retirees and others living on fixed incomes — all of them will have as much power at the polls in the April 4 election as parents of Jefferson City Public Schools Students, staff and alumni.

On the April 4 ballot, voters will decide whether to support Propositions J and C, which present Jefferson City Public Schools' two-high school plan.

If both issues are approved, a Jefferson City family who currently owns a $150,000 home would pay about $25 more a month or $300 more a year in property taxes.

Personal property taxes would also increase, too: The owner of a car with an assessed value of $10,000 would pay about $36 more per year in taxes than they do now, if the levies are approved.

Taxes on residential and personal property are calculated in the same way: assessed value of the property, divided by 100, then multiplied by the overall tax rate.

The assessed value a car is one-third of its average trade-in value through the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). The assessed value for marine craft is one-third of the average retail value. For residential property, assessed value is 19 percent of a home's appraised (also known as market) value. For commercial property, it's 32 percent.

Proposition J will ask voters if they want to approve a 65-cent tax levy increase to fund a $130 million bond issue to build a second high school and renovate the existing one to make it an equitable facility in terms of square footage, design and safety. Proposition J requires a 57 percent approval vote in order to pass.

Proposition C will ask voters if they want to approve a 45-cent operating levy — 25 cents to cover the operating costs of a second high school and 20 cents to cover needs within the existing school system. Proposition C requires a simple majority vote in order to pass.

Outreach efforts to inform voters of the state of the district and of the ballot issues have included people from various groups of stakeholders, even the less directly involved groups. Since the beginning of the month, JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum has met with groups including the local chapter of the AARP, local retirees from the Missouri Department of Transportation and Catholic elementary school principals.

Linthacum said responses to these presentations have been positive overall. But residents have had questions he's tried to answer, and not everyone agrees.

He said the No. 1 concern he's gotten is about the cost of the two-high school plan, and he's said it is an investment, though he feels it's a reasonable one.

He recognized many people in the community do live on fixed incomes, but he believes "their property values will increase, we believe, with a second high school." He cited Ashland and Wardsville as communities that have seen economic growth because of the reputations of their education systems.

Though the degree to which people's stakes in the Jefferson City Public Schools district varies, "we do believe a rising tide raises all ships," he said.

That's something Helias High School President the Rev. Stephen Jones said, too. Jones said he is not speaking as a representative of the Diocese of Jefferson City or of Helias.

"Education is extremely important. Whether you're in parochial or public (schools), all kids deserve great education and opportunities," he said.

As a private citizen, he said, he's voting yes on the ballot issues because it's "not just about schools. It's about our community as a whole and what kind of town we want to have. All parents should keep that in mind."

The News Tribune reached out Friday to some of the Catholic elementary school prinicpals whom Linthacum has met with but did not immediately receive any feedback.

Jones said he hopes Linthacum will be able to meet with Helias staff before the election to inform them.

Whichever way parents and families of parochial schools vote come April 4, they could collectively represent a sizable portion of the local electorate, reflected by the totals of students enrolled in the 2016-17 school year from a number of families:

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Helias High School: 685 students enrolled from 580 families;

Calvary Lutheran High School: 132 students from about 125 families;

Lighthouse Preparatory Academy: 149 students;

St. Joseph Cathedral School: 476 students from 294 families;

St. Peter Interparish School: 472 students from 312 families;

Trinity Lutheran School: 318 students from 231 families;

Immaculate Conception School: 294 students from 205 families;

St. Martin Catholic School: 190 students from 148 families;

River Oak Christian Academy: 83 students.

Information about the number of families who send children to Lighthouse Preparatory Academy and River Oak Christian Academy was not immediately available. The total number of families who send at least one child to the other parochial schools is 1,895, though there could be some overlap between the high schools and elementary schools, depending on the ages of children within familes.

In terms of age, according to the 2015 American Community Survey (ACS), there are 11,494 people in Jefferson City who are 55 years old or older — 26.6 percent of the total population. This could represent a sizable group of voters who are retirees living on fixed incomes and may be more sensitive to tax rate increases on their homes and personal property.

Speaking as a private citizen, Charlotte Wening doesn't want to be labeled by the phrase "fixed income," though. Wening is president of the local AARP Jefferson City Chapter 4401. Linthacum recently spoke to the group at the Capital Mall Senior Center.

"I'm retired. Even on a fixed income (though), you use your income for what you see as a priority," Wening said. She uses some of her income on travel to see family.

"If the bond issue, the second high school is a priority for people, they would figure out a way to pay those taxes so we can get that in Jefferson City," Wening said.