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      Arbitrators deny St. Elizabeth school boundary changes

      St. Elizabeth school administrators wanted the changes so they could collect property taxes from landowners in the disputed boundary areas.

      It appears an on and off legal battle between 2 school districts since 1992 is finally over.

      The clash between the Maries County R-1 School District and the St. Elizabeth R-4 district was over school boundaries and property taxes.

      A board of arbitrators unanimously rejected the request for school boundary changes between the Maries County R-1 and St. Elizabeth R-4 school districts during a hearing at Jefferson City??s Truman Building. St. Elizabeth school administrators wanted the changes so they could collect property taxes from landowners in the disputed boundary areas. Arbitrators said students are not experiencing any problems with school bus drive times or quality of education with the existing boundaries so they didn??t make any changes.

      Arbitration board chairman Joe Aull said, ??I think the transportation issue was the biggest issue that we looked at. With the documentation that we had, it didn??t appear that we could see that there wasn??t enough significant difference as stated by law.??

      State arbitrators made the decision after the boundary changes were approved by voters in St. Elizabeth and Miller County but rejected by voters in Vienna and Maries County on the April ballot.

      Maries County R-1 Superintendent Joe Dunlap said, ??I??m happy with the decision. We will continue to try to work with any of our neighboring districts to settle any disputes that we have, of course. I fell like the letter of the law was served.??

      St. Elizabeth R-4 Superintendent Toni Westbrooks-Taylor said, ??It??s not that I??m not happy. I think sometimes that regulatory issues and common sense don??t quite go hand in hand all of the time.??

      Administrators from both the Maries County R-1 and St. Elizabeth school districts said they just want to do what is right for their students. 4 previous boards of arbitration voted to reject boundary line changes.

      Maries County voters rejected the proposed school boundary change by 91% on the April ballot.