JOPLIN (AP) - Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that the Joplin School District will get up to $1.5 million from the state government so it can pay its bills without property tax increases after a deadly tornado struck the southwestern Missouri city.
Nixon said the storm has reduced the property tax base for the district and that without the state funds, school officials would have been forced to raise property tax levies next year to operate schools and finance debt.
"Ensuring that Joplin students have access to a quality education is a critical priority, but raising taxes on Joplin residents and businesses would hurt this recovery and simply isn't an option," Nixon said. "Making this critical investment provides schools and teachers the resources they need and holds the line on taxes for the people of Joplin."
Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by the May 22 tornado that also killed 160 people in the Joplin area. The governor's office said Thursday local officials have estimated that revenue from residential property taxes could drop next year by $790,000 in Jasper County alone.
Four schools were destroyed and six other district buildings were damaged. Nixon traveled to Joplin on Thursday and announced the plan for state aid to the school district at the 11th and 12th grade center, which is in an empty store.
Nixon has pledged $150 million of state aid for disaster relief and recovery efforts, with the largest chunk likely to go to Joplin. The governor's office said the money for Joplin schools would come from those funds.
Last week, Nixon said he was asking the Missouri Department of Revenue and the State Tax Commission to examine the effect of the tornado on property and tax revenues for local governmental entities. The governor's office said it expects additional information about residential, commercial and personal property taxes to be available early next year.
School Superintendent C.J. Huff said he would like the district to be completely rebuilt and in permanent schools within three years.