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For a symbol of the unfortunate, diminishing sense of belonging to a greater community and contributing to a greater good, I don't have to look much further than opponents to Proposition 1, which is on the ballot in my local school district [Ladue, Missouri] on April 3.

The district is ranked as one of the best in the state. It includes some of the hugest houses in this state in one of the country's highest per-capita suburbs, and it wants to raise its operating levy by 49 cents per $100 assessed valuation. Would you be surprised to learn that a wealthy resident is almost singlehandedly funding an opposition campaign, planting "Vote NO" signs on the sweeping front lawns of some of the fanciest homes in the district?

I was intrigued to hear some opponents of the levy increase call it "excessive," so I decided to do a little research. Here's what I found and published on a local website. The facts and numbers may be local, but the issue is national: People with the most money who don't see why they should have to pay their fair share and who complain about being asked to pay "too much." I decided to examine just what "too much" might mean.    More below the squiggle...

Is the increased levy in Ladue School District's Proposition 1 "excessive," as some opponents have termed it? The answer depends on what your definition of “excessive” is.

As voters in the Ladue School District debate the merits of a proposed 49-cent increase in the operating tax levy, some opponents say it’s too much and a waste of money. I've observed that many of the “NO on Prop 1” signs are planted on the spacious front lawns of some of the biggest homes in the district.  And that makes me wonder, how much would the tax increase actually cost homeowners, and what else might they be buying with that money if they didn’t have to fork it over for the schools?

First, I learned that the median value of a home within the boundaries of the city of Ladue, in 2009, was $822,000. [Ladue School District encompasses more than just Ladue itself, but most of the most expensive homes are in the Ladue municipality.] That’s median, not average.

Next, I did a little math. Actually, Ladue School District’s Prop 1 site did the math for me. They’ve thoughtfully included a tax calculator, where you can input the value—either the appraised value or the assessed value [they’ different, and you can look yours up here]—and find out how much more you’d pay in taxes per year under Proposition 1.  

OK.  So, let's say, appraised value: $822,000. Annual tax increase if Prop 1 passes: $766 per year.

Is that excessive? One way to make that judgment is to see what other stuff your $766 might buy [if you’re living the presumed lifestyle of someone who owns a house worth $822,000 in the St. Louis, Missouri area] and to decide whether $766 for the schools has a greater return on investment. Here are a few examples:

    One-month lease payment, 2012 Lexus RX-350:  $760

    7-day Carnival Cruise to Western Caribbean, balcony room, May 2012:  $799 per person

    Diane Von Furstenburg messenger bag, Nordstrom’s: $745

    Round-trip ticket [1], St. Louis to Las Vegas, Frontier Airlines, “Classic Plus,” May 4-7, 2012: $678.18

    Prada “Peep-toe” pump, Nordstrom’s:  $780

    Men’s Brera “Supersportivo” watch, Neiman-Marcus: $750

Are any of these "excessive" expenses?

My home, which is in the Ladue District, but not in Ladue itself, has a tax valuation of about half of the median. The handy tax calculator says that, if Prop 1 passes, I’ll pay $431 more per year in taxes. I guess that means I may have to pass on the Kitchen-Aid Pro-Line mixer[$350] I've been eyeing, or maybe veto that Specialized touring bike [$430] I'd probably never ride. They would have been frivolous, excessive purchases anyway. And we're not talking about my having to choose between buying either of those versus food for my family and/or paying my fair share for a decent school for my kids. And, by the way, I do understand that the location of my house within the Ladue District has quite a bit to do with its substantial appraised value.

So, if my lowly, additional $431 per year will help prevent a small percent of  a teacher from being laid off, I'm definitely going to vote yes on Prop 1 and not complain about it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    Life's a dance you learn as you go; sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.

    by gloriasb on Mon Mar 26, 2012 at 10:10:17 PM PDT

  •  I just went thru the heartbreak of this in our (6+ / 0-)

    district. The school levy failed by TWO VOTES. People move here with kids then expect the schools to magically expand without taxes to pay for them. And just to peg the Irony-O-Meter I've heard some of them complain the inadequate, over-crowded schools lower their property values. I have no idea how to get thru to these people. I always vote yes for levies on schools, fire/emergency services, libraries, etc. I get that community means something but I don't have a clue how to get that into other people's heads.

    "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

    From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

    by ontheleftcoast on Mon Mar 26, 2012 at 10:25:27 PM PDT

  •  gloria - give us come context (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, elfling, Sparhawk, Zornorph

    The additional tax seems like a reasonable amount for good local schools, but it's hard to put the number in context with the current taxes paid by the residents because you didn't provide any additional information. For that $822,000 home how much are they currently paying in total property taxes? How much of an increase would the $766 represent? What does the rest of the tax burden in Missouri look like in terms of income and sales tax? With just a few more numbers we could give you an opinion about how reasonable the current proposal might be.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Mar 26, 2012 at 10:43:07 PM PDT

    •  Additional facts here... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc

          A $.49 increase is anticipated to return the district to financial stability for the next four years (two reassessment cycles), assuming the economy does not weaken further. This request is being made in an effort to maintain current staffing and programming levels after over $7 million in expenditure reductions have already been made in the last four years.

       This increase will not bring the district back to the per student expenditure levels of years past.

          District revenue has fallen 9% over the last five years, causing the district to manage operations in 2011-12 with $4.1 million less revenue than in 2007-08

      I've lived in the district for 35 years, and almost every increase has passed. Perhaps that's why the schools rank so highly and people pay extra for their homes to live in it.
      School District's Prop 1 site

      Life's a dance you learn as you go; sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.

      by gloriasb on Mon Mar 26, 2012 at 11:45:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you think you have problems, look at (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III

    the California schools.  They are some of the worst in the nation.  Do you know why?  Because in the 1970's some brainless twit enacted Proposition 13 which limited property taxes on ANY home to 1 percent and made it law that they could not be revalued AT ALL while the current owner still owned the house.  I will give you an example, because my Father, not knowing too much about all of this, kept our old house and bought us a larger house for us four kids for $39,000.  It was sold some 16 years later for 300,000 and all the time my Dad and Mom owned it they paid taxes on $39,000.   All schools in Southern California after the earthquake needed retrofitting, but every time they put it on the ballot to help the schools the people of California turned it down.  Why give money to the state when you can continue to get rich?   I had a child  in 1991 and was offered a job in Minnesota that worked out that my kid would start kindergarden in Minnesota.  We live in a good suburb of Minnesota with a very small school district.  I have NEVER ever seen a bond issue for the schools fail to pass.  It staggered me. I came from a place where since I started voting, I had never seen a bond issue for schools in California pass EVER.  Why does California have some of the worst schools in the country?  Proposition 13, and the selfishness of the residents.  It is that simple.  So, if you think you have problems, see what they deal with in California.  They have no second language, no art, no music, no nothing but the basics and my sister who still lives there says that her daughter is using books from the 1990s.  I guess it is more important to have a bigger house than to help the kids be smarter and get to whatever higher education they want to get to.

    "My Momma always taught me to play by the rules, and if you don't that's called cheatin'." - Donna Brazile

    by jjmn on Mon Mar 26, 2012 at 11:20:08 PM PDT

    •  jjmn - some context on Prop 13 (0+ / 0-)

      Proposition 13 was a self-inflicted wound by the California Democrats in 1978. We had one of our common housing spikes and seniors were losing their homes for failure to pay their increased property taxes. The Legislature could have stepped up to the plate and passed something that gave relief to seniors and Prop 13 would have never happened. Howard Jarvis, and the apartment owner group he led, were very clever in using grandma being tossed on the street to pass Prop 13, which continues to have overwhelming support here with voters.

      Just a nit on how Prop 13 works. Your home is appraised at its 1975 full market value, or whenever you purchased the home, which ever is the most recent. Your property tax bill can increase a maximum of 2% per year thereafter depending on the assessed value of your home. For nearly everyone who didn't buy in the most recent bubble their property taxes go up 2% per year.

      There is a push to exclude commercial properties from Prop 13 although it has not made it to the ballot and would face strong resistance from the California business community. However, I think it could pass.

      Just to give it some context my home's assessed value is about the same as the "median" in the diary and my property taxes are one third of the current amount in Ladue, even before the proposed increase.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 10:51:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In the Republican mind, all taxation is theft. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, BlackSheep1


  •  Thanks. As a teacher, these past few years have (0+ / 0-)

    been hard. It is nice to see someone see the importance of education.

  •  This is a difficult issue (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have voted against the last two school levies here in my Cleveland suburb, which is not terribly wealthy. My condo value has plummeted, thanks to the scourge of the foreclosure crisis. But my issue isn't the value of spending money this way. It's simply fairness. While homes lose value and 2,500 units sit vacant, new "Chicago-style" townhouses worth up to $400,000, being marketed to people with six-figure incomes are 100% tax-abated for seven years. when everyone pays their "fair share," I will revisit this, but you cannot carry your schools on the backs of the least affluent in your community. This is an issue on every level of government, and we need to restore some fairness and balance.

    Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07.

    by anastasia p on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 06:24:44 AM PDT

    •  I went to Shaker Heights schools, where... (0+ / 0-)

      tax levies passed every time. Of course, that was back in the 60s, when things were very different. I agree with you, though, that fairness is really crucial.

      Life's a dance you learn as you go; sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.

      by gloriasb on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 01:11:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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