Pattonville School District officials are working to balance the district's budget through cuts and restructuring in the wake of Harrah's anticipated tax appeal to the State Tax Commission over the value of its property.
St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman raised Harrah's value assessed valuation from $152 million to $439 million, a move that the casino appealed to a St. Louis County Tax Commission. The commission denied the appeal and the appeal to the State Tax Commission could take years to conclude.
Pattonville School District stands to receive an additional $3 to $4 million this year because of the change, but Superintendent Michael Fulton said the district will proceed as if it never received the money.
"We'll get the money and we'll leave it alone," Fulton said. "They could come back and say we have to give it back. We don't want to be in the position of jeopardizing the future."
Fulton said the district has to wait and see what the Tax Commission has to say and in the mean time put the money aside. He said tax appeals are fairly common for commercial properties in the district and the district staff factor appeals into the budget.
"The size of this one is different in scale and scope," he said.
The appeal has forced the district to look hard possibly areas in which it can make cuts going forward in an effort to balance the budget.
In the past year, the district has cut close to $3 million from the budget and is planning another $2 million in reductions before next year.
The district plans to find ways to cut the budget in another $4 to $5 million in the next two or three years through exploring various cost-cutting strategies. Part one of the plan is to create a plan for cost reduction which includes closing Briar Crest Elementary.
Part two will be a strategic planning process with parents, staff and the community to find additional cost-cutting measures. Part three will be implementing the first two stages.
One of the topics up for discussion would be taking a look at the district's transportation system. State funding for transportation has decreased during the last several years, and more school districts have begun to require students to walk to school if they live within a mile of the school.
Fulton said school community improvement groups will meet this year to look at areas where the schools can improve learning and save money.