Residents go to polls Tuesday
Registered voters in Ozark County will go to the polls April 3 to decide tax levy requests by the Ozark County Ambulance District and the Dora R-III School District, and also to elect members to the village boards in Bakersfield and Theodosia, the school boards in Bakersfield and Gainesville, and the Gainesville mayor.
Seats are also opening on the Public Water Supply District No. 1 board in Theo-dosia, the Ozark County Ambulance Board and the school boards in Dora, Lutie and Thornfield, but state law lets government entities bypass elections when the number of candidates equals the number of openings, the case situation on those boards.
Voters are reminded that a photo ID will be required to vote, following the state’s 2016 passage of a law that required it beginning June 2017. Those who don’t have a state-issued driver’s or non-driver’s license, passport or military ID can show a paycheck or bank statement and sign a statement confirming their identity. For more information, call the Ozark County Clerk’s Office at 679-3516.
Absentee voting for the April 3 election continues until 5 p.m. Monday, April 2, at the Ozark County Clerk’s office. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. For poling place information, see the sample ballot on page 15, or call the Ozark County Clerk’s office at 679-3516.
The Ozark County Times will post election results Tuesday night on its website, ozarkcountytimes.com, and on the Ozark County Times Facebook page. Final results will not appear in the printed newspaper until the April 11 edition, due to Tuesday’s midday deadline.
Profiles of candidates running in contested races appear on pages 6-7 of this week’s Times.
Tax levies on the ballot
Dora R-III School District voters will decide April 3 whether to renew the current tax levy with a .10 increase. Dora superintendent Steve Richards told the Times for a March 7 story that approving the levy increase carries extra importance because it brings the district’s levy back to the 3.43 level, which qualifies it for the state’s Small Schools Grant that provides an additional $120,000 to the school’s budget each year.
For all but one of the years since Dora voters passed a school operating levy ceiling of 3.43 in 2006, the school’s levy has continued at or near that level, Richards siad, qualifying it for the $120,000 Small Schools Grant each year. However, the county’s total assessed valuation increased from about $109 million in 2016 to about $115 million in 2017 due to requirements from the state that applied to the assessor’s office. As a result of that increase in the county’s total assessed valuation, Dora’s share of the total valuation also increased – which meant the school’s tax rate went down to 3.329. And at that rate the district will no longer qualify for the Small Schools Grant – unless voters approve the increase on April 3.
Richards said that, if the previous levy had “sunsetted” at a time when the school’s operating levy had been 3.43, which it has averaged all the years since 2006, the ballot request would simply be to continue the current levy. But because it went down last year due to the district’s increase in valuation, the request must, instead, be for an increase to the $3.43 per $100 assessed valuation level.
Ozark County Ambulance District tax levy increase request. The ambulance district is asking voters to authorize the district board to reset the district’s current levy rate of .1242 cents per $100 of assessed valuation up to a maximum of 28 cents per $100 assessed valuation starting in the current tax year. Ambulance district administrator Eddie Delp reminds voters that, if voters approve the request, the actual property tax collected will be reduced proportionately depending on the amount of sales tax collected. An existing half-cent sales tax helps fund the ambulance district, and the county “takes the total dollars of sales tax collected and deducts that amount from the property tax to be collected,” Delp said.
The rate increase would be subject to a corresponding rollback in the current half-cent sales tax that supports the ambulance district, as required by Missouri law.
Delp has said that the complicated funding system that includes the “sales-tax rollback” makes it hard to get a levy increase passed because the required language makes it seem like the total levy is more than doubling, when in fact it’s not.
The ambulance district operates 24/7 with two professional personnel and one vehicle available at all times. The ambulance is required to respond to all calls, but many of the calls don’t result in transport, which means the district earns no income for the call. However, the biggest factor that puts financial stress on the district is bills that go unpaid. Currently, the district is owed nearly $500,000 in unpaid bills that have accumulated over the last eight years, Delp said. Another challenge will be replacing the current ambulance in the next few years.
The district has estimated that approving the proposed levy would increase the net tax bill by $20 per year for the owner of a $70,000 home, $5 for the owner of a $10,000 car, and $1 for the owner of 80 acres of unimproved woodland.
Ozark County Ambulance District Board. Two three-year positions are coming open: the District 3 seat currently held by Ray Peter and the District 6 seat currently held by James “Jim” Brown. Brown has filed for re-election to the District 6 seat. Peter, who has served as board chairman for several years, did not file for re-election, and no one else filed for the seat. Ozark County Clerk Brian Wise and the ambulance board investigated the issue and determined that the board can fill the District 3 slot by appointment, so no election will be held.
Public Water Supply District No. 1, Theodosia: Two three-year terms on the board of directors are coming open, the seats currently held by Suzanne Meeks and Alan Edgington. Meeks has filed for re-election; Edgington did not. Ric Engelhardt has filed for Edgington’s seat. Because the number of candidates equals the number of vacancies, no election is required.
City and village boards
Bakersfield Village: Three two-year terms are coming open on the Bakersfield Village Board, the seats currently held by Tony Johnson, Jodi Burns and Albert Gargione. Incumbents Johnson and Burns have filed for re-election; Gargione did not file. Tony Schaab, Stephanie Guffey and Jonathan Belt have filed, so five candidates are running for the three seats. The Bakersfield mayor is elected by the board from its members. Johnson currently serves as mayor.
City of Gainesville: The two-year terms of mayor, east ward alderman, west ward alderman and center ward alderman are coming open. Incumbent mayor Deanna Gail Reich has filed for re-election; Carroll Wise has also filed for the office of mayor. Incumbents Lee Bowen, center ward alderman, and Rocky Sullivan, west ward alderman, have filed for re-election, but no candidates have filed for the east ward seat currently held by Lyndell Strong. Because there are three openings and only two candidates have filed, an election will be held. All Gainesville residents may vote in the mayoral race, but residents may only vote for alderman (or write in a candidate’s name) in the ward where they reside. To qualify for office, regular and write-in candidates must live in the ward they would represent.
Theodosia Village: Three two-year terms are coming open on the Theodosia Village board, the seats currently held by James “Jim” Brown, Bob Bochert and Randall Unruh. All three candidates have filed for re-election, and Jerry Smith has also filed.
Two three-year positions are coming open on all five Ozark County School districts, but school board elections will be held only in Bakersfield and Gainesville, where the number of candidates exceeds the number of terms expiring.
Bakersfield: The seats currently held by Scott Denton and Mike Scott are coming open. Incumbent Scott has filed for re-election, but Denton did not. Mike Zimmer and Chris Bales have also filed, so three candidates will be running for the two seats.
Dora: The seats currently held by Robert Lee and Terry Martin are coming open. Both incumbents have filed for re-election. Because the number of candidates equals the number of vacancies, no election is required.
Gainesville: The seats currently held by Billy Pippin and Wes Uchtman are coming open. Incumbent Pippin has filed for re-election, but Uchtman did not. David Pointer, Jabet Wade, Derek Alms and Mason Eslinger have also filed, so five candidates will be running for the two seats.
Lutie: Two three-year terms are coming open, the seats currently held by Carl Kruger and Jan Conklin. Kruger has filed for re-election; Conklin did not. Ric Engelhardt has also filed. Because the number of candidates equals the number of vacancies, no election is required.
Thornfield: Two three-year terms are coming open, the seats currently held by Darrin Clayton and Jerry Donley. Clayton filed for re-election; Donley did not. Greg Prock has also filed. Because the number of candidates equals the number of vacancies, no election is required.