OZARK, Mo. — Voters in the Ozark District will be asked to decide on two funding issues in the April 5th Election.
Both would not increase taxes. Officials said the current tax rate will remain at $4.14 and has not changed since 2003.
Question one asks voters to approve a $19 million dollar bond issue meant to fund constructing three storm shelters at three Ozark school buildings.
Question two is a little more complicated. The Ozark School District is asking voters to allow the transfer of 10 cents from its Debt Service Fund to its General Operating Budget.
OzarksFirst spoke with District Superintendent Dr. Chris Bauman on Monday (4/4/2022) about the reasons behind the budget question.
Dr. Bauman explained that in 2021, the district was required by state law to transfer 17 cents from its operating budget due to rising property values in Ozark.
The transfer was done in order to comply with the Hancock Amendment, which ensures school districts do not receive a windfall after increased real estate assessments.
“We had two choices,” Dr. Bauman said. “We could either lower our overall tax rate or we could place it into debt service. We chose to put it into debt service because it still does generate a surplus in debt service.”
However, the district is now hoping to transfer a portion of that surplus back into the Operating Budget in order to offset rising operating costs. A transfer of which requires a vote from taxpayers.
Dr. Bauman says the Debt Service account has more than enough funds to pay for bond payments. He adds, keeping the 17 cent surplus would not mean the bonds would be paid off any faster.
Instead, the district hopes voters will allow for the transfer in order to for schools to pay for the rising costs of supplies and staff.
“What we’re asking is to better utilize the dollars that the taxpayers have given us and allow us to take where we have surplus money and transition 10 cents back into the General Operating Budget,” Dr. Bauman says.
The district says it has seen the cost of cleaning supplies rise significantly in recent months. Dr. Bauman says in many cases, some everyday supplies like toilet paper is costing 25% more than it did a few years ago.
Ozarks Schools says it also needs to stay competitive with rising wages. While teachers’ salaries are taken from a different account, Dr. Bauman says Operating Budget would raise the money needed for administrative positions, maintenance staff, bus drivers, and substitutes.
Those who vote “No” on Question 2 would be voting to keep the 17 cent surplus feeding into the Debt Services fund. If either issue passes, voters would see no increase in their taxes.
A breakdown of both issues on the Ozark ballot can be found here.