The Blair Oaks R-2 School District is asking voters on April 2 to decide whether they want to pay to build a new high school.
Funding for the new school is asked for in two propositions on the ballot, paraphrased here:
Proposition 3 — Should Blair Oaks' Board of Education issue bonds to pay for borrowing $14 million to develop the site, construct, equip and furnish a new high school, and to the extent of money available, complete other repairs and improvements to existing facilities?
Approval of this proposition means the district's debt service property tax levy will not increase, and it will remain at $1.21 per $100 of assessed valuation.
Proposition 4 — Should Blair Oaks' Board of Education increase the district's operating tax levy by 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in order to pay for a new high school's staff, facility maintenance, educational programs and utilities, and to meet other operating needs of the district?
If this proposition is approved, the adjusted operating tax levy of the school district will increase by 30 cents to $3.05 per $100 of assessed valuation, starting with the 2019 tax year.
The operating tax levy increase would put the district's total tax rate at $4.26 per $100 of assessed valuation. That would put the district's rate further above the current rates of the school districts in California and Eugene, but still below Jefferson City, Russellville, Ashland, Columbia, Harrisburg and Hallsville.
Though the new high school's first phase of construction would not be anticipated to be open until August 2021, collecting the operating levy increase sooner would be easier on the district's operating fund balance later. An operating fund balance is how much money a school district keeps on hand to get through any unforeseen expenses not in the budget.
The second phase of the then-completed new high school would be anticipated to open in August 2025. Finishing the second phase would require a second bond issue of up to approximately $4.75 million in April 2023, again without any increase to the district's debt service levy.
The first phase would include the school's auditorium, gym, library and cafeteria, as well as enough classrooms for grades nine through 12, though some students may be temporary classrooms in the gym's planned mezzanine level.
It's not known what all exactly $14 million will be enough to cover, but district officials are hopeful to include rooms for art, band and choir that could be bid out as alternates, meaning they would be built as part of phase one if funds are available.
The district's debt service levy would not need to increase to pay for a new high school because the school board already approved a 30-cent increase from $0.91 to $1.21 last August.
That meant people in the district paid higher property taxes at the end of 2018 — money collected also in order to save money in interest payments on the cost of a new high school later.
Owners of $200,000 valued homes within the school district paid $114 more in taxes than the year before because of the debt service levy increase.
The formula for calculating taxes on real estate or personal property is the value, multiplied by the assessor's rate, divided by 100 and then multiplied by the tax levy rate.
Cole County assesses residential property at 19 percent of its value; agricultural property, 12 percent; commercial, 32 percent. Personal property is assessed at 331/3 percent of its value — trade-in value for a car, or retail value for a marine craft, for example.
In the current school year, 72 percent of the total assessed valuation in the Blair Oaks district comes from residential property, with another 22.1 percent from personal property.
If the district's operating levy were increased as asked for on the ballot, owners of $200,000 value homes would pay $1,618.80 in property taxes for the school district — another $114 more than the $1,504.80 they paid in 2018.