Dan Wehmer - Publisher's Pen

Dan Wehmer - Publisher's Pen

More than 35 years ago, in 1983 to be exact, Seymour R-II School District voters went to the polls and passed a bond issue. With the issue’s passage, the local school built the current gymnasium at the Seymour Elementary School.

Looking back, that vote was monumental.

Because it was the last time Seymour voters approved any type of tax issue for their school.

In the interim, the state has implemented many changes to public education. Senate Bill 380 was approved in 1993, which set a minimum tax-levy rate of $2.75 per $100 of assessed valuation for public schools in Missouri to receive state aid. A minimum salary was set for public-school teachers.

In turn, state educational standards were set, validated by statewide testing. Federal standards soon followed. Accompanying both sets of standards were tax dollars needed to fund public schools, especially ones like ours in rural areas.

Back in 1983, Seymour’s school was about 50- percent funded by local tax dollars.

Today, that tally is roughly 20 percent.

In other words, if you’re a Seymour R-II School District taxpayer, your local personal-property and real-estate tax dollars pay for 1/5th of the total bill for educating our children.

If you lived in Ladue, a St. Louis suburb, that local contribution is 60 percent.

Statewide, the average local contribution is about 35 percent.

Point is, Seymour school patrons get an educational bargain. Granted, federal and state tax dollars, which pay 80 percent of the cost for our school, ultimately are yours. But all 80 percent of those dollars weren’t generated locally — not even close.

Fact is, others pay to educate our kids.

That’s a good thing. It’s actually a positive aspect of bigger government.

But it’s too good.

We should pay our fair share.

Educational welfare isn’t a program Seymour residents should willingly accept or endorse.

These are our children. A free public education is partially our obligation. It was a priority to residents a century ago when one-room schoolhouses dotted Webster County. Proportionally, our ancestors paid a higher cost for education than we do today.

County property-tax records from the turn of the 20th century prove that.

Seymour’s $2.75 levy rate is the state’s lowest.

No lower tax rate can be found at any public school in Missouri receiving federal and state aid.

School patrons in Chadwick, a community 35 miles to our west and void of a business district or anything resembling city services, gladly pay $4.68 per $100 for their levy. The rate in neighboring Mansfield is $4.10. It’s $4.01 in Rogersville, $3.84 in Marshfield and $3.51 in Fordland.

Even Niangua, a district once teetering with losing state accreditation and the butt of school jokes to many of Seymour’s faithful, has a rate of $3.88, more than a dollar higher than our $2.75.

Who’s laughing at Niangua now?

Ninety-four percent, or 494 out of the 520 school districts in Missouri, have a tax-levy rate higher than Seymour’s $2.75.

Next Tuesday, Seymour has an opportunity to change the narrative. We have an opportunity to support our children. We have an opportunity to show we value education and the future of all our young people.

On the ballot is a 75-cent levy increase, which would bump Seymour’s rate to $3.50. If approved, our school levy still would be lower than all the districts listed above. At $3.50, 83 percent — or 441 out of the state’s 520 school districts — will still have a higher school levy than ours.

Tuesday’s vote is vital.

Over the past two decades, this newspaper never has endorsed a tax increase of any type.

We’ve never supported a bond issue, levy hike or sales tax. Our tax-bump tally is zero.

Until today.

We urge you to go to the polls next Tuesday and vote “yes” for the 75-cent levy increase for our school district.

We dislike tax hikes as much as you.

But our children’s future outweighs this tax increase.

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