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North Platte will seek
47 cent tax levy increase

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

With the presidential primary election out of the way, Missouri now turns to its April elections, elections that promise to have an even more profound effect on citizens than in recent years.

Platte County will be no different —aside from the usual gamut of local political races and candidates to choose from, registered voters will see major school funding issues on this year's ballot as well.

Platte County R-3 will be presenting voters with a $24 million bond issue and the North Platte School District has just announced its plans to present voters with a proposed increase in its operating levy to $4.25 per $100 of assessed valuation, up from $3.78. West Platte voters approved a 72-cent levy increase in last November's election.

Platte County R-3's bond issue is earmarked for the construction of a new middle school and a renovation project for the existing space at the school.

North Platte School Superintendent Dr. Francis Moran explained that his district's latest requested increase was borne out of the state's tough fiscal crisis.

"It's to offset the loss of state revenue," said Moran. "We're not sure if it will offset all the revenue we've lost because (the legislature) has not yet agreed what the expenditures are going to be.”

Moran said the increase would net the district nearly $190,000 and was to be earmarked for general operations.

"We can't count on the money being there (from the state)," Moran said. "We have to plan for the worst."

The 47-cent proposed increase comes just over two years after the district's previous levy adjustment. That adjustment resulted in the purchase and installation of 41 air conditioning units for an estimated cost of $164,000. That increase was rolled back last year to the present levy of $3.78.

The North Platte school district is not alone. According to a poll conducted by the Missouri Association of School Administrators, 90 out of 271 responding Missouri school districts were considering levy increases in 2004.

The Belton, Fort Osage, Grain Valley, Grandview, Hickman Mills and Lee's Summit school districts are five other Kansas City area school districts who are in the planning stages for a new ballot issue as well. In addition to West Platte, the Blue Springs, Independence, and Raymore-Peculiar district voters have already approved increases. North Kansas City voters rejected a proposed increase for their schools last April.

Problems at the state level affect local districts
Missouri's budget issues have begun to attract national attention for their veracity and partisan gamesmanship.

The controversy largely began when Democratic Governor Bob Holden withheld nearly $200 million in educational funds from the state budget on the first day of session, citing the need for a balanced budget.

Republican legislators, who hold the majority in the state legislature, assert that Holden is not using the correct budget forecasts. Since then, Holden has vetoed 6 budget bills, 2 of which were appropriation bills for school funding, the first Missouri governor to ever do so.

Many area school districts sued the state government after those vetoes, challenging the governor's authority to reduce appropriations approved by the state legislature. Those suits were found to be without merit. 243 school districts have since joined up to sue the government, claiming that the state does not adequately fund public schools or distribute funds equitably.



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