In parallel with discussions regarding design, the Ladue Schools Board of Education and administration are also discussing and analyzing how projects, once they are more specifically detailed, could be funded. The primary components of these discussions are determining which components of each project will bring the most long-term benefit to students and identifying ways to achieve these goals with minimal tax burden on our community.
Current considerations include:
Use of Existing Operating Funds. With careful management since voters approved an operating tax increase in 2012 and property assessments rising (at least prior to the pandemic), the district is on solid ground financially with no anticipated need for additional operating tax requests in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it may be possible to utilize a portion of the district’s operating fund balance to address some of these facility improvements, while also maintaining the current operating tax levy.
Bond Referendum. Previously issued bonds have been refinanced to take advantage of lower interest rates. This strategy, in conjunction with the rise in property values, may help the district to accomplish these improvements through another bond referendum without increasing the debt service levy, or increasing it only minimally. As the designs are further refined, district administrators will be able to estimate more precisely whether, or by how much, the levy would have to be increased to accomplish these improvements and a tax levy calculator will be incorporated in this website.
Timing of Improvements. The Board of Education and its advisors are also taking the economic climate into account, weighing the advantages of getting these improvements done in the near term while interest rates are low and the bidding environment is robust, versus phasing improvements in over time but potentially risking tackling these improvements in less favorable financial markets. Clearly, the severe economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its eventual recovery will be key in determining when the Ladue Schools community could support the implementation of any of these projects.
What Voters May Be Asked to Approve
Voters approve the total amount of the bonds to be issued – not the levy increase. The precise increase in the levy (if any) is dependent upon a number of factors, with the primary factors being changes in overall district property assessments and the status of existing bond debt. The district sets the levy each year based on the funds required to repay the district’s total bond debt in the upcoming year.
Calculating the Debt Service Portion of Your Property Tax Bill
Increases to a homeowner’s annual individual property tax can be calculated using the formula below. Please note:
Appraised Value is the amount St. Louis County determines a home is worth or for which a home could be sold.
Taxable Value (or Assessed Value) is the amount upon which taxes are calculated and is equal to 19 percent of Appraised Value for residential property. (A home with an Appraised Value of $100,000 would have a Taxable Value of $19,000.)
Taxes are levied per $100 of the Taxable (Assessed) Value.
The districts current debt service levy is $.78
Appraised Home Value x .19 divided by 100 x levy
Example for a home appraised at $500,000:
$500,000 (home value) x .19 divided by 100 x $.78 (current levy) = $741/year ($61.75/mo.)
Notes on Current District Financials and Tax Status
The Ladue School District has a AAA rating from Standard and Poor’s and is one of the few public school districts in Missouri, and one of less than 100 in the nation, to hold this designation.
In 2020, the Ladue School District had the lowest combined operating and debt service levy of any school district in St. Louis County at $3.5857. We would have to raise the levy by more than $.20 for this not to continue to be the case (assuming no change in other district’s levies.) The district is currently working toward not having to raise the debt service at all in order to make these improvements. Any increase required would be minimal.
The Ladue School District continues to have the lowest operating tax levy in St. Louis County at $2.8057. Please note that the Ladue School District is made up of all or part of 10 different municipalities, with 60 percent of the district lying outside the City of Ladue.
In 2020, out of 22 public school districts in St. Louis County, the Ladue School District rates 13th (lowest to highest) in debt service levy.
From 2012 through the 2019-20 school year, the district operated under a 2% expenditure increase parameter as set forth by the Board of Education in order to prolong the need to ask the community for additional tax dollars to support day-to-day operations. This parameter has been increased to 2.7% beginning in the 2020-21 school year and there continues to be no need to increase the operating tax in the foreseeable future.
Bond refunding has saved taxpayers over $2 million. Through a process allowing the district to refinance taxpayer-approved bond issues into lower interest rates, $18,995,000 in bonds were refunded in October 2014 with a total district savings of $2,176,522 over the remaining life of the issue. (This did not require extending the length of the repayment.) The bonds were sold by local institutions and local residents were given the first opportunity to purchase them.
New compensation strategies and structures have been implemented. During the course of the last few years, salary structures have been put in place for certified staff, support staff and administrators. The primary goals have been to rectify salary inconsistencies, to align employee salaries with those in comparable districts, to implement a process capable of maintaining a fair and equitable system going forward, and to improve budget forecasting.