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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

And back to taxes...

Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007, at 9:44 AM

I'm going to talk about something that bothers me. That's not what I intended this blog for but it seems like I should have named it "Things that tick me off."

Monday morning I got a call telling me I should go visit Bloomfield Elementary. Apparently, the roof problems we've been hearing about for years reached a new level of trouble.

During Friday's torrential evening rains, it appears that enough water made it through the roof and into a classroom to leave about 4 inches of standing water in the floor for the weekend. Coincidentally, this is my 9-year-old daughter's math class.

Now, I understand that sometimes these things happen, but this has been an ongoing problem for several years. The maintenance men at the school spend an insane amount of their time patching holes in the roof, but that's just a temporary fix. It's been well over 20 years since the building was re roofed and it shows.

It's actually reached the point where its going to require serious construction to replace the roof and repair the underlying damage.

Twice in the past two years, the school has gone to the people to try to raise the district tax levy to accommodate for repairs of this magnitude and twice it has been handedly defeated.

I'm not here today to push for a tax, but to explain a little about funding that a lot of people don't understand.

When you look at a school districts budget, yes you see some rather hefty numbers, but nearly all of that money is specifically allocated as to how it can be used. You can't use capital improvement money to repair a roof just they they can't get into the lunch fund to pay for textbooks.

Another argument I've heard involves the school buying up surrounding property. Something that needs to be understood, is that in order for a school in the center of town to grow, they have to purchase surrounding property when it becomes available because it may never be for sale again. Bloomfield, for instance has added quite a bit of parking in some of the property they bought.

Again, though, that is not the same money that would go into repairs. It is illegal for a district to use those funds inappropriately and carries some stiff penalties.

The only other argument I've heard has been that some people don't like the current administration and won't vote for this until there are changes. Well, who you like is your own business, but don't take that out on our children.

If as a citizen of any public body, you have a problem with something or someone, go to a meeting and call and set one up to sit down and talk about your concerns.

I go to public meetings every week and rarely is there ever more than one person in attendance and more often there are none.

Like I said, I just wanted to explain some things about the funding of public body's for people who don't understand that it doesn't work like a checking account. This isn't a push for a tax. I just wanted to clarify some things that I've heard.

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I know what I've heard but I was wondering if anyone knows how many layers of roofing are on the school and if it really does exceed the legal limit. If so - who approved that?

-- Posted by Lady on Fri, Dec 21, 2007, at 8:22 AM

I will be the first to say that I didn't attend a single meeting. But I voted in favor of the roof because I know our children need it.

Everyone keeps saying that it doesn't matter if you like the administration or not. I agree. But don't you think if the people of the community believed and trusted in Dr. Perry and Dr. Renfroe it would help to pass these sort of things? I don't give/loan money to people I don't trust - no matter what the need is.

Yes this money is for the children and I am happy to give to them. But now that I think about it would I want the school administration handling that much of my money?

-- Posted by Lady on Fri, Dec 21, 2007, at 8:16 AM

I just googled Tennessee school districts - they have 122, as opposed to Missouri's 524.

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Dec 21, 2007, at 7:09 AM

You're right, teafortwo, I remember reading about the scheduled meetings in Bloomfield concerning the bond/tax issue. They were well-publicized. I was appalled that hardly a handful of people came.

What was that all about? Why did they choose not to get involved? If they were against the proposal, why didn't they come express their disapproval?

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Dec 21, 2007, at 6:59 AM

I guess that I am a little concerned when I hear someone is more concerned about the economics of one large school than how it would affect the children in the county. Some students already have long bus rides. My own kids when to a large consolidated county school in Tenn. where they were only a number. I could not wait to get back to Missouri and get them in a small school where they received more attention and I could actually communicate with someone. They were a lot happier as well.

As far as Bloomfield is concerned, I think once again the students are the ones suffering because adults are more worried about themselves. I really don't care if you don't like the administration. I also know that there were meetings about the tax/bond issues before the elections and hardly any one would come. If you are really a concerned citizen and were confused about whether this was a tax or bond issue, go to the meetings or make phone calls to find out. You should be able to investigate yourself. It should be just as easy as typing your comments here I would think. I am tired of hearing excuses. Let's help the children of Bloomfield.

-- Posted by teafortwo on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 9:48 PM

I.B., you're thinking like a member of the Missouri legislature! Are you sure you aren't a SPY??? Defending NCLB, arguing about which educational system would be cheapest...

I think that's what our legislature is trying to do -- whittle down the 524 school districts in the state until we have...mmm...I don't know what their goal is. Let's see - how many counties does Missouri have?

114 -- That's the ticket!

How tidy!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 7:28 PM

That's true about moving anywhere,unless you farm,sawmill,ranch, or have a small business.

Hmm...,well as long as were moving,load up the truck and move to over to Richland.We've got nothing but room to grow,and lot's of ground.Bummer of a bus ride from Advance,though.Those kids will have to pack some vittles,as they may miss supper.

I think we just need to get some serious community involvement,as Advance did,because we have so many precious districts,we are blessed in this area,just cursed with NCLB!

Mrs.Dolphin,you are correct that there would be trouble for many people who enjoy the status quo,the losers would be the kids!

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 6:22 PM

I came from a situation almost the same as the one here. There was only really one actual town in the county. A lot of rural residential areas. Terrain was really bad, up and down hill and around curvers, 90% two lanes where you could shake hands with the people going the other way.

It is actually cheaper to operate one school and it doesn't have to be in Dexter just because it happens to have the largest population. I have seen a couple located in a rural area, like the one where I am from. It is not actually in a city limit.

When all kids from the county can go to the same school then it appears to me that the property values go up if you have a good school. You can live anywhere you want in the county, so you are not forced to live in Dexter so your kids can go to school there if you don't want to. Moving around in the county doesn't impact your children.

I do like the smaller schools, but if we are talking economics, consolidation is cheaper.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 3:37 PM

Let me rephrase what I said. Dexter does have the room to expand...but it would require the clearing of A LOT of trees, and, if it was required, the approval and rezoning of our city limits. Not to mention taking away from the other towns b/c the teachers would either have to make the extra drive for their jobs, or they would move to Dexter. Families in the county would probably do the same. Dexter would grow like crazy, and towns like Puxico, Advance, and Zalma would turn into towns like Acorn Ridge...almost non-existent. The bad outweighs the good on this one I think.

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 1:10 PM

Dexter is a good school. And it's a small town school. But how could you base a centralized school in Dexter when Dexter doesn't really have the property to expand for that many kids? Richland does. Dexter would have to attempt to buy out the best neighborhood in town to expand for that many children. I went to Dexter my whole school career...and there are many more opportunities there than anywhere else in this county. Football is the main thing (as far as sports go) that everyone looks at. And people from Bloomfield pay tuition just so their boys can play. Kinda senseless if you ask me. But EVERYONE has a basketball team. Instead of putting that money into a centralized school (and I don't disagree w/ you I.B. this is just my suggestion), why couldn't we put that money into each school in the county to improve all of them? Better computer courses, more choices in sports, etc. Dexter's cliques are numerous, and there is one HUGE problem I can think of. I'm not at all racial, please don't think I'm saying so, but how do you think some of the kids from Richland would fair against some of the kids from Dexter? And you all know what I mean. It would be a re-make of events from the 60's and 70's.

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 1:02 PM

GL you are right about the bias in NMCC. How do you think we Rebels,Cubs,Mules,Hornets etc will fare as Bearcats,since Dexter would have to be the central school?

How much participation will the Advance kids have in after school activities,with that busride,and how will the residents participate,when they have to drive all the way to Dexter for anything?

Shoelady,over the years in the Richland district we have had gifted athletes and their families truck their kids to our school (before the strict residency rules blow up of the past few years).The point you make is VERY valid-if their child wanted to play,or in some cases even be on a sports team,they had to move to our smaller district.

I can name numerous students (myself included) who would have never had either academic or athletic scholarships with the fierce competition in a larger school.

However Mr.Truthy has a valid point,in a really dirt poor county with no jobs,or minimal tax base, I can see that a central school would be necessary.If the entire county is flat or hilly,then weather related issues would be a non-issue. A dear friend of mine and her family moved to St.Louis to a huge district,and her problem is that they live too close to the school for bus service,too far for the kids to safely walk,no city bus service past the school,and her and her hubby go to work early,so she has to pay a daycare(within the bus service route) for the thirty minutes they have to wait for the bus,before and after school-these are teenagers and a 10 year old,and it adds up. There are always logistical,safety problems,and they live three blocks from where Mike Devlin held those poor boys-so they will not allow the girls to walk the distance.

I think we can still take care of our own and I always am prejudiced in favor of the smaller schools. With ITV classes,modern computer labs,vo-tech courses,what are we missing? Football,field hockey and swim teams-boo hoo-perpetual parent NO-FUNdraisers

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 10:20 AM

Bloomfield School will always be "the school upon the hill" that is very dear to my heart. As a BHS alum I can tell you that it is a wonderful school which offers its students a wide range of opportunities. Bloomfield residents are very proud of their community and have always supported the school in the past. My question is this, why are they not now?

I for one hope their is NEVER a county school system for Stoddard County. Each different school district has its own distict personality. I for one believe that by having one district we would be limiting the number of activities our children could be involved in.

Take sporting events for example. Only 5 individuals can be on a basketball court at one time, and for volleyball 6. When I think about all the great athletes who have come out of Stoddard County over the years you have to ask the question, "Would this have happened if we only had one school for the county?" Of course that is not possible. I am not saying that sports is the only thing that matters but in the grand scheme of things they do. For example, think of all the area high school students who have been awarded college athletic scholarships throught out Stoddard County. This enable the kids to receive an education, which enables them to get a better job and be more successful when they return to the County and become a valuable part of the community.

Ok I will get off my soap box now.

-- Posted by shoe lady on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 9:13 AM

A lot of research will have to be done to prove to me that the larger schools are better, even with all the advantages of course choices.

Every year the Southeast Missourian does a story on its choice of the Best Schools in the area, and tiny Leopold is always up at the top. Their graduation rate and college success rate are always high. I know that much of it has to do with family background, but they have to be doing something right in the school, too.

The opportunities are there in the small schools, if the students will just take them. My own son went to a small school, and he has been successful in four universities since then. Now he has a PhD in a science-related field. It can be done.

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 7:14 AM

When I go home and see all the opportunities that the kids have now in the centralized school I am amazed. I went to one of the very small schools that was consolidated and none of the things they have was available to me.

GL do you think that maybe the kids from Matthews had biases of their own that contributed to the situation? Learning to cope with different people in society is very important. You might end up employed in New York City at some point in your life. You never know what the future holds for you.

I think the major problem with these large schools is the very apparent lack of personal attention and control.

I know we need to repair the Bloomfield school, but I think at some point the centralized school will have to be considered for the county. It appears to be the future to me.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 11:25 PM

I know we need to think outside the box, and I hate to be hide-bound, but I just can't see a county school working. Years ago, I had a student who had grown up in Matthews, I think it was, and he told me about how it was when they were consolidated with....New Madrid County Central (Is that right?)... He said that the Matthews' kids were looked down on, because they were considered "hicks," and they never did learn to get along together.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 9:30 PM

Where I grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Eastern Kentucky the terrain and travel is a lot worse than this. The county is as large or larger. I don't think all the problems you mentioned can be attributed to the lack of a school, but maybe. That is as good excuse as any I guess.

We can continue going in the direction we are going or we can look at a new idea. I think I am just trying to tell you that the school issue will continue to be a problem. If the community wants to keep it this way that is OK with me.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 11:28 AM

I have delivered phone books in the past to make some extra money.

Mr.Truthy,do you really comprehend how large Stoddard County is?

From the flat ground in the south to those Hills in Tillman, the flood zone around Cline's Island to the ice-covered Parma-Hunterville road (Hwy.53),right up to Morehouse,Canalou,the roller coaster we call Ozark Acres.There is no way I could ever see one district with all these areas on snow days,when Bernie is all clear and Bell City is frozen solid.

Look at Parma if you want to see a monumental failure of the one county,one school idea. The school WAS the heart of the town,when they shut it down to go in with New Madrid Central,look at what happened.Houses that didn't sell regularly had electical fires,unemployed people appear to be able to buy houses with cash,and if you need drugs without a prescription,well, it's the place to shop. I sure don't want that for Essex,Bloomfield, Bell City or any other little town.The school is still the center of these little towns,and I think MD is right,the entire community needs to be more involved,they have a real interest in these issues,as it directly effects property values,attracting good people to your town,and future tax issues.

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 9:47 AM

And, I.B., the issues involved in creating one-county school system must be astronomical! If you're willing to wait on the building of a county school before you support a new tax, the local children are going to be going to school in substandard conditions for far longer than any of us will ever live to see.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 8:15 AM

Corey, when you do your research, be sure to check on the details about bond issue versus tax levy. Which one are they asking for, and what are the advantages of each?

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 8:10 AM

I have more comments and questions about this issue than cyber space can hold!

I was told by a school board member that there are several layers of roofing over the school. I was also told that it is illegal to have more than "x" layers of roofing, and then told that Bloomfield has exceeded that number. Who approved that?

The children are pressured into participating in fundraising activities on almost a monthly basis. Let's raise funds for the seats at the ballfield, or library books, or playground equipment. I am in favor of all of these things, but where are the priorities? I know we wouldn't raise enough money to replace the roof by selling candles or that other over priced junk, but look at what was raised by selling cookie dough last year.

I never stepped foot in Bloomfield Schools until I enrolled my children. I own property in Bloomfield. I have seriously considered selling and moving back to Dexter just so my children can attend a decent school.........

-- Posted by Lady on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:46 PM
Corey Noles' response:
Corey, this is Madeline. I just had to respond to this, if you don't mind.

Advance had the same problem. When we moved here in '75, they hadn't had a successful bond issue since the elementary school was built in 1957. My husband had a conversation with a neighboring farmer and asked him why he didn't vote for improving the school. He told him that the amount they were asking for was "too much," and he didn't want them "spending money on the teacher's lounge." My husband had been in construction all his life, and he knew the costs involved - but these people who were voting the taxes down had NO IDEA how much it cost to build a school.

There was also an issue in attitude: I was amazed at the hostility directed at the school administration and the faculty.

In the early nineties, someone had the foresight to enlist key people in the community - representing several segments, including the grandparent generation - and they formed a task force which later came to be called "Kids First." This group worked to change attitudes. As a result, Advance has had three major successes since that time - building a facility to replace some TRAILERS, a new high school, and, most recently, a major $2.5 million elementary renovation (equivalent of a new school).

Of course, it didn't hurt that a very generous local farm family donated over $30,000 to the high school effort. They used that seed money to start a fund, which gathers interest through the years. There was $50,000 from the fund to contribute to the most recent effort.

Get your community involved! You have to break the cycle!

The logisitics are a problem, but it is done in many counties. It is done where I where I grew up now. Seems to be working out, but I do think the ride to school is a little longer for some kids. They do have a great school now though, but I do wonder how they will maintain it.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:11 PM
Corey Noles' response:
Something I noticed when I was in Oklahoma, is that kids can choose which school they want to go to as long as they can get there without having to pay tuition like here in Missouri. The big problem that created was that there were two types of districts: Those comparable to Cape Central and those that make Zalma look large. There was no middle ground whatsoever.

Good question, I.B. That's what so often happens - When the money comes in from another source (like the River Boats), then the legislature decides, "Oh, okay, now we can reduce the formula!" So irritating!

I, too, will never, ever, complain about taxes for the schools! And, I will never be one of those who says, "Why should I pay a school tax? I don't even have kids!"

However, I can't agree with you on a county-wide school. Don't you think that would be a logistical nightmare? Imagine the bus ride for kids from the outlying areas!

Or is that what you mean?

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 8:42 PM

Education of our young children is one of the only things left that I don't mind increasing taxes for. I do have a couple concerns though as always.

Several years ago we voted for and approved the establishment and operation of River Boat gambling. The money from the entry fee was supposed to go to our education system and no doubt a very substantial amount has. When I cast my vote in favor of that I thought the money would be in addition the money we are already taxed for and in addition to the normal budget. I thought this would give us the opportunity to have the best funded schools in the nation. That doesn't appear to have happened or was ever the intention. It appears to me that they just replace the education budget with the revenue from boats and spend the education money elsewhere. Is that true? That is what it looks like happened to me.

Second, I really don't want to vote to spend more money in a money pit. I will vote for a new school or say a combined or centralized school for the entire county. I know, it is opposite of how I feel for the small schools and the education received there. I wish there was a couple small schools in Bloomfield instead of the one but the economics of that is impossible.

So, where has the education portion of the river boat money gone to? Teachers, I don't see it. New schools, where?

Show me the money Corey. Where does it go and is Bloomfield getting its fair share? If not, why not?

What do you think?

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 8:03 PM
Corey Noles' response:
That's a very valid question Truth and I'll see what I can find out but it may take a couple of days so be patient. I'm also planning a story in regards to the failed proposals in Bloomfield and will look into the money a little deeper there too.

The idea about a county school is interesting, but doubtfully practical here in a county with so many hills and so much dead space in between communities. It would make things like snow days complicated, too.

Places like St. Charles County though is handled differently. Since the whole community is urban, it's broken up in a different way than ours are.

I will dig into it and see what I can find out in the near future.

The only thing I can think of as to why the last two bond/tax levy issues didn't pass was that it wasn't clear as to whether they were bond or tax issues. As I remember, at least one of the issues was publicized as a "bond issue," yet, it was - in reality - a request for a permanent tax levy. Bonds are paid off; taxes are permanent.

A Jackson resident told me that this is what happened there several years ago - a tax was advertised as a bond - the people voted for it (under that assumption) and when they discovered the truth, they were permanently furious.

No more increases for Jackson, from what this resident says.

It's a matter of trust. If your community doesn't trust the ones in charge to tell them the truth...well, there you are...

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 5:45 PM

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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