Levy proposal sessions to be held at Aug. 6 open house, dinner
Gainesville R-5 School District will host an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served. In addition to touring the schools, enjoying a free dinner and meeting administrators and teachers, community members are invited and encouraged to attend informational meetings regarding Proposition Gainesville Bulldogs, the 75-cent levy increase proposal that will appear on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot. Two meetings are planned, the first at 6 p.m. in the junior high/high school and the second at 7:30 p.m. at the elementary school. The proposed increase would bring Gainesville School’s levy from $2.75, the minimum the state allows, to $3.50, still the lowest in Ozark County. Dora School’s total levy stands at $3.61 after passing the Proposition Kids tax increase in the April 2018 election. Over the past five years, Dora has added improvements such as a new FEMA building, a junior high wing, some FFA projects and a new gym floor. Bakersfield School built a new high school in 2016 after voters passed Proposition Care in April 2015, bringing their levy to $4.56. Lutie School’s operating tax levy currently stands at $3.65.
At the school’s first informational meeting Monday, July 16, Gainesville superintendent Jeff Hyatt fielded questions from audience members and presented a long list of improvements and renovations needed (See the Times story, July 11). He says he will be ready to offer another look at those needs at the open house meetings on Aug. 6.
The last time a school levy increase was approved was in 1993, when voters approved a 30-cent increase per $100 assessed valuation to build a new elementary school. When that facility was completely paid for, the levy was rolled back to the state minimum, where it’s remained in spite of the district’s repeated efforts to persuade voters to raise its operating levy again.
The elementary school is now 25 years old, the high school is 55 years old, and both need repairs and renovations, Hyatt said. Among the planned projects is a new 7,800-square-foot storm-shelter building that would be completed with the help of a FEMA grant, if the school’s application is approved. Other plans would include expanding and renovating the district’s high school and junior high school, renovations to the elementary school cafeteria and office, safety improvements, other maintenance and repairs, and hopefully, the construction of a multi-purpose gymnasium. “We’re going to use the money as efficiently as we can in order to make that a possibility,” Hyatt said. “Our gym is the worst in the conference, by far.”
One audience member at the July 16 informational meeting said she felt the gym was an important addition. “Us old people with bad knees can’t get up and down those stairs,” she said.
Also in the plans is a new preschool and expansion of the school’s early childhood education program. The school has applied for a Community Development Block Grant through the Missouri Economic Development program to help build the new preschool so that funds from the levy increase could be used for other purposes.
In addition to the proposed capital projects, Hyatt said improving recruitment and retention of employees is high on the list. Gainesville teacher’s salaries start at $28,000 a year. One teacher at the July 16 meeting said, “It’s virtually impossible to live on that when you’re paying $500 to $600 a month for student loans.”
Taxpayers who are curious about how the levy increase will affect their personal property and real estate taxes can contact Ozark County Tax Collector Bill Hambelton or Deputy Collector Darla Sullivan at the collector’s office in the basement of the county courthouse or call them at 679-4705. The estimated increase on real estate taxes on a home with an assessed value of $50,000 is estimated at $71.50 a year ($5.95 a month) and on a home assessed value of $100,000, the increase would be $143 per year ($11.92 a month). “If you paid personal property and real estate taxes of $1,000 for 2017, you’re going to be paying around $1,270 for 2018,” Hambelton said.
In discussing the levy at the July 16 meeting, Hyatt reminded listeners that some residents may qualify to receive a real estate tax refund. Treva Warrick, a regional care coordinator with SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging, told the Times that, to qualify for the refund a taxpayer must be age 65 or over, 100 percent disabled or 60 years of age and receiving surviving spouse Social Security benefits. If a taxpayer paid real estate taxes on their primary residence plus up to 5 acres, they may qualify for a rebate of up to $1,100 if their total household income is less than $30,000 (if single) or less than $34,000 (if married).
The refund credit is calculated on a sliding scale based on household income, said Warrick, a longtime tax counselor for the elderly. For example, a single taxpayer with total household income of $16,000 and real estate taxes of $550, could qualify for a refund of $478. A single taxpayer with income of $24,500 and real estate taxes of $550, could qualify for a refund of $20.
For more information, contact the SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging, 1-800-497-0822, or call Warrick at 417-840-2573.
“We want to do something good for these kids and our school,” board member Marti Warden said at the meeting. “The school is the hub of our community.”
“It comes down to investing in our kids,” Hyatt said.