Tag Archives: Prop S

Why I Voted NO on Proposition S

On May 10, 2022, the Board of Education voted 4-1 in favor of placing a $160 million “no tax increase” bond issue called Proposition S on the August 2nd ballot. Of five voting members, I was the sole dissenting NO vote.

In Fall of 2019, the Board of Education was asked to begin considering school closures and consolidations, on the assurance that the money saved by closing several of our schools in the worst conditions would gain us the fiscal capability to reimagine our remaining open schools—capital improvements, building/technology updates, more support staff, mental health services, and increased student resources. This process took the Board a year and a half of planning and tough conversations with the community (and each other). After difficult deliberations, the vote was 4-3 in favor of closing seven schools. In the end, I voted against the school closures because I doubted our ability to deliver these educational enhancements. We now operate seven fewer schools, yet our annual revenue and expenditures have still increased from $388 million to $400 million dollars.

Now, with this bond issue we again come to the public, after closing their neighborhood schools, with our palms out asking for more money to fund a vast wishlist of problems that we should have already solved. There is no doubt our schools are in dire need of upgrades, and our students deserve better. But what did they get from us when we closed their schools? Are these citizens and students truly getting the public services they pay for?

As for the “no tax increase” language, I want to be very clear. Per state statute, each September, the Board of Education must vote to set the tax levy for the District. Approximately 60% of taxes collected in the City of St. Louis go toward funding Saint Louis Public Schools. While the tax levy is “not expected at this time” to increase in order to cover the cost of repaying the bond, the Board absolutely still has the authority to raise the tax levy, even as soon as one month after this bond issue appears on the ballot, and may do so any September in the future, whether related to the bond or not. It is also worth noting that schools are funded by local, county, state, and federal dollars, and the average budgets of school districts across Missouri are funded by approximately 55% local effort (property taxes), and the rest by county, state and federal funds. However, despite being one of the highest poverty districts in the state, an overwhelming ~80% of the SLPS budget comes from local property taxes.

Until we as a city and a society are able to implement an equitable system of taxation that does not place undue burden on our most marginalized residents—mostly poor, Black, and/or northside—I cannot in good conscience vote to tax them for services we repeatedly fail to deliver. And I will not be complicit in making promises we can’t keep. SLPS students and St. Louis City residents deserve better.

That said, I trust my fellow board members’ best intentions in placing Proposition S on the ballot. If Proposition S passes, I hope you will hold us all accountable for completing the projects we promise.