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Greene County voters will be headed to the polls in a little more than a week to decide who will serve on many municipal councils and school boards for the next couple of years.

But along with votes on representatives, residents of Ash Grove, Rogersville and Walnut Grove, as well as people living in the boundaries of the Walnut Grove and Republic school districts, will decide on municipal and school-related ballot issues.

Here’s a roundup of the propositions and tax levy proposals on Greene County ballots April 6.

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“I voted” stickers at the Cooper Tennis Complex polling location on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.  (Photo: Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader)

Proposition 1 — City of Ash Grove

Language: “Shall the city of Ash Grove, Missouri, be authorized to forgo annual elections if the number of candidates who have filed for a particular office is equal to the number of positions in the office to be filled by the election?”

This ballot measure means that the city would not hold an election if there is only one candidate for the position.

State law allows municipalities with fewer than 2,000 people to ask voters to forgo elections when only one candidate runs for each open seat.

Melissa Mau, the city’s clerk, said the measure could save the city roughly $2,000 per election, though she noted it would eliminate the possibility of write-in candidates.

The measure would be in effect for six years following the vote and then voters would have to decide again whether to approve it, according to state statute.

More: Missouri auditor to begin review of Greene, Stone County collector’s offices

Amendment A — City of Rogersville

Language: “Shall the City of Rogersville, Missouri impose a local use tax at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, currently 2.25%, provided that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action? A use tax return shall not be required to be filed by persons whose purchases from out-of-state vendors do not in total exceed two thousand dollars in any calendar year?

“If this question is approved, the City of Rogersville would begin collecting a use tax from sales made to Rogersville buyers by online and out of state vendors that are not currently taxed. The funds derived from the use tax will fund municipal costs and expenses, including police safety, infrastructure/transportation and other capital improvements, and parks and recreation.”

This proposal would allow the city of Rogersville to collect the same amount of tax on an online purchase from some out-of-state retailers as it would collect sales tax from an in-person purchase.

Currently, Rogersville residents don’t have to pay any sort of sales or use tax on products from out-of-state vendors, unlike people in Nixa, Kimberling City, Warsaw, Springfield or Kansas City.

Chad Bybee, the Rogersville city administrator, said while he couldn’t speak in favor of the proposal, the language was drafted after the Missouri Municipal League released projections of loss of sales tax given increases in online sales.

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Bybee said about half of the city’s budget currently comes from sales tax, so a reduction could potentially be an issue.

“As we see with the pandemic, that has certainly changed people’s way of doing business,” he said. “At least for us, we have to make sure we have the means to keep our streets paved, make sure water flows to the house and sewer flows to the treatment plant.”

Rogersville Area Chamber of Commerce President Brian Jared said the tax could give local businesses that have to tax customers on sales a more “level playing field.”

“We’re not wanting to encourage more tax by any means,” he said. “But we want to see Rogersville grow, and it’s happening, but it’s also hard to (support that) if you don’t have any funds.”

An online FAQ on the city’s website states the roughly $50,000 in expected tax revenue would go to pay for:

  • Police, animal control, code enforcement, building inspections, infrastructure and snow removal
  • Curb and pavement management
  • Capital improvement projects, such as streets and stormwater
  • Parks and recreation

Question — City of Walnut Grove

Language: “Shall the aldermen of the City of Walnut Grove be elected on an at-large basis, rather than the current method of voting by ward?”

Walnut Grove’s Board of Aldermen has two representatives for each of the city’s two wards.

But state law allows cities of fewer than 1,000 people to vote to have all at-large districts, said Walnut Grove’s City Clerk Eric Sutton.

On the ballot in April, there is no one running for the city’s southern ward, but Sutton said that was purely a coincidence.

“Here, it just feels like all our aldermen are thinking of the whole city first and foremost,” he said. “We just wanted to find out from our citizens whether they wanted general seats.”

Question — R-3 Republic School District

Language: “Shall Greene County Reorganized School District No. 3 (Republic) issue its general obligation bonds in the amount of $16,000,000, resulting in no estimated increase to the debt service tax levy, for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, repairing, renovating, furnishing and equipping school facilities, including:

  • constructing a gymnasium at Schofield Elementary School
  • constructing an early childhood center
  • acquiring property for school purposes

If this question is approved, the District’s debt service tax levy is estimated to remain unchanged at $0.94 per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property.”

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Preschool teacher Jody Matthews teachers her class in a group activity at the Republic School District Early Childhood Center on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The Republic school board will vote this month to seek a bond issue in April to build a new preschool. (Photo: Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader)

The Republic school board voted to put the measure on the ballot earlier this year amid “unprecedented growth” in the area.

It would not cause an increase in any taxes, but it would allow the district to take out a $16 million bond to pay for

  • A new early childhood center, plus storm shelter, to be located on the old football field behind Price Elementary, 518 N. Hampton Ave.
  • Construction of a gym, that will double as a storm shelter, at Schofield Elementary, 235 E. Anderson St.
  • Relocation of the district’s central office from the back of Price Elementary to the old early childhood center, 636 N. Main St. with light remodeling to create a new boardroom.
  • Remodel existing central office space at Price into additional classrooms.

The goal with expanding the early childhood center is to allow more kids to take advantage of the program. Currently, just 10 percent of the 375 to 400 kids enrolled in kindergarten were able to get public pre-K.

Officials also want to build storm shelters in an area prone to tornadoes and build capacity to prepare for the increased enrollment that will likely come along with new subdivisions and apartment complexes in the area.

Proposition W.G. — R-5 Walnut Grove School District

Language: “Shall the Board of Education of the Walnut Grove R-V School District, Missouri, be authorized to increase the operating tax levy by $0.7900 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation through Tax Year 2040 for the purpose of providing funds for the replacement of roofing, ceiling tiles, windows, window fills, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems to the elementary and high school buildings; to renovate the elementary school restrooms; to construct corridors between school buildings and entry vestibules to enhance safety and security; to develop a new drop-off/pick-up lane, sidewalk and parking lot; and to complete other remodeling and repair improvements to existing facilities?

“If this proposition is approved, the adjusted operating levy of the District is estimated to increase by $0.7900 from $4.0530, currently, to $4.8430 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation for Tax Year 2021 and can be applied to the assessed valuation for each year thereafter through Tax Year 2040.”

Walnut Grove’s school district is once again asking voters to chip in to pay for upgrades to its 70-year-old elementary school and remodeling of existing district facilities.

In 2019, voters narrowly struck down a proposed increase of $1.07 per $100 of assessed valuation for a second time.

That increase would have allowed the tiny district to demolish and rebuild the elementary school along with making other needed repairs, but Superintendent Adam Willard said that was a sign to scale back.

“Now what we’re going to do is go in and upgrade or fix or install things we don’t currently have,” he said.

The new proposed increase of $0.79 would mean the annual tax bill on a $100,000 home would go up by $150.10 a year, or $12.51 a month.

The failed 2019 proposal would have meant paying $203.30, or $16.94 a month, on the same house.

The extra money would pay for:

  • Complete replacement of roofs, ceiling tiles, windows, window fills, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems to both the elementary and high schools
  • Installing air conditioning in the elementary school
  • Renovation of the elementary school restrooms
  • Building corridors between school buildings and entry vestibules to “enhance safety and security”
  • Developing a new drop-off/pick-up lane, sidewalk and parking lot

Willard said the district had also applied to the federal government for money to build a FEMA shelter at the high school, which would be open to the public for use in a tornado or other emergency.

Eventually, he said, it would double as “usable space” for the high school, including a new commons area and administrative offices.

“We feel like this is a win/win for everybody,” he said. “I know the levy increase is high … but we allocate our budget already as much as we can to maintenance and repairs, but it’s just a small piece of the pie and it won’t cover the amount of projects we have to complete to ensure safety for our kids.”

Katie Kull covers local government for the News-Leader. Got a story to tell? Give her a call at 417-408-1025 or email her at [email protected] You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.

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