Fulton voters to decide school tax levy increase

    Fulton Public Schools said it wants to raise its property tax rate so it can increase teacher salaries and expand mental health services. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

    School district voters on Tuesday said it would be worth paying extra property tax to give teachers a raise.

    Voters in the Fulton school district next week will decide whether to approve Proposition K. The measure would raise the school district's property tax levy by about 57 cents, to $3.89 per $100 assessed value. District officials said this means someone whose home was valued at $100,000 would pay an extra $108 per year in property taxes. The district said the ballot measure required a simple majority to pass.

    Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said the extra money would be split roughly evenly between teacher salaries and mental health services. Cowherd said the district's teacher salaries, which start at $33,165 per year, are well below those of similar school districts such as Mexico and Moberly. For comparison, data from Fulton Public Schools show teachers in Mexico start at $34,500 a year, while a teacher entering the Moberly school district can expect no less than $35,532. The tax increase would bring Fulton's starting salary up to $34,415, slightly below Mexico's.

    "We've got a heck of a rivalry with Mexico, and I'd like to get those teachers before Mexico does," he said. "We're interviewing the same group of teachers."

    District resident Jane Mudd, whose children graduated from Fulton High School about 20 years ago, said she had no problem paying the extra property tax. She said a well-funded school system is good for the community.

    "They're long overdue. I think they've been doing a lot with a little," she said.

    Cowherd said the district received an MU grant about three years ago to help fund psychologist services and additional training for teachers. The first year of the grant, Cowherd said the district identified about 400 students with various mental health needs, a figure which represents about 18 percent of the district's enrollment. He said this included children who lived in homes where they were abused or where their parents were heavy users of drugs or alcohol. Cowherd said the district will continue to provide the services the grant paid for regardless of the ballot measure's fate. If it doesn't pass, he said district officials will have to take the money out of other areas of the budget, such as building costs.

    Proposition K will appear alongside primary races on August 7.

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