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Ladue School Board Gets 1st Glimpse at Funding Building Plans

An initial draft of a funding plan for Ladue's $107 million "master plan" would raise the debt service tax by 30 cents per $100 in assessed value by 2015.

Members of the took their first steps toward implementing a massive building campaign within the district during a workshop session this week designed to consider possible ways to pay for the $107 million in improvements.

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District officials cautioned that none of the financial ideas were set in stone and that they had work to do to communicate with parents and taxpayers about the district's need for new buildings, renovations and "seismic upgrades" to protect against earthquakes.

This first pass, presented by Jason Buckner, assistant superintendent for business and finance for the district, would involve two increases in the tax rate that supports paying the district's debt.

Now, taxpayers pay 35 cents for every $100 in assessed home value to cover the debt payments in the district. The district will consider this month raising that levy to 39 cents so it can comfortably cover its existing debt.

To finance the $107 million construction plan, however, this draft plan would raise the debt service rate to 65 cents in the 2015-16 school year. That rate would be required to cover a $52 million bond issue, which would require voter approval.

If the school board pursued that option, the owner of a home appraised at $500,000 would pay an additional $285 in property taxes between now and 2015.

"We don't want people to say this is what is going to happen," cautioned Susan Dielmann, communications director for the district. "You have to start somewhere."

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Later, Buckner added: "This is a draft; it's one way to implement a master plan."

That does not include the district's levy for its operating budget, which Buckner said would likely remain unchanged for the next eight years — assuming no major changes in economic conditions.

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District superintendent Marsha Chappelow told board members on Monday that the plans will require them to "be more proactive in the district."

"It's an important time to start a discussion," she said. "Sometimes people don't want to talk about the money. But we should talk about the money."

Board member Andy Bresler told colleagues on the board that the draft financing plan would provide money for current existing needs, and position to district to handle unanticipated needs in 30 to 40 years.

"This is funding the capital plan and funding the 'Son of the Capital Plan,'" he said.

Board president Jayne Langsam asked district staff to come back to the board with guidance about what the next steps would be. Buckner expected the next step would be an informational public hearing on strategies for funding the construction before the board would vote on a plan.

Here are some of the priorities outlined in the district's master plan presentation in December (this is not a complete list; see the complete master presentation in the PDF attached to this article):

COST SCHOOL(S) PROJECTS $51.98 million Science wing addition; replacement windows; new music practice room; stadium improvements; "seismic" upgrades. Fire suppression systems throughout. $20.39 million Spoede Elementary; other schools New elementary school; maintain recent additions; replacement windows at a number of other schools, including Conway, Old Bonhomme, Reed, Ladue Middle, West Campus and the administrative center. $13.37 million , Old Bonhomme, , , facilities building. Conway: Library and cafeteria additions; renovations to existing library and cafeteria into classrooms. and renovations. Old Bonhomme and Reed: gym and art room addition; renovation of existing gym into cafeteria; renovate existing cafeteria into multipurpose space. Ladue Middle: reconfiguration of parking and traffic flow. $21.25 million Ladue Middle, administrative building Relocate media lab and reconfigure library; addition for student commons; new entry plaza and gym plaza; renovate former science classrooms; renovation of the administrative building.

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