Board also exploring how to finance major HVAC upgrades at district buildings

An increase in the debt service levy to patrons in the Hannibal Public School District #60 would help expedite a plan for major HVAC upgrades at the district’s facilities, school officials say.

At the district’s annual tax rate hearing in August, the Board of Education is expected to increase the 85 cent debt service levy to $1.07 cents, raising the total levy to $4.24 per $100 of assessed valuation.

Technically, the school district has two levies — the debt service levy and the operating levy. Both have ceilings set by the Missouri Auditor.

The levies dictate how much people pay in personal property taxes for the maintenance and development of taxpayer-supported entities.

In previous years, the Hannibal School District has set a debt service levy lower than the maximum. The proposal this year is to raise the debt service levy 22 cents to $1.07, but still below the set ceiling of approximately $1.11.

According to school district officials, the $1.07 cent debt service levy provides enough support for a $13.5 million to $14.5 million general obligation bond financing issue subject to voter approval on the April 2, 2019, election.

That bond issue would help fund improvement at buildings in the district.

The district’s bond underwriter, L.J. Hart & Company of St. Louis, told district personnel and Board of Education members at a July 12 meeting that the current 85 cent debt service could not support the district while it also pursues the wide scope of HVAC projects necessary in the district.

Board members agreed that delaying HVAC projects until after a 2027 balloon payment of $4.1 million on previously-issued school construction bonds was not acceptable. That forthcoming balloon payment, along with a low debt service levy, poses economic risks to the district, L.J. Hart representatives told the board.

“Delaying our efforts to make improvements currently expected to be in the $14 million to $25 million

range exposes the district to higher equipment costs as well as potentially higher interest rates. I don’t believe it makes any sense to postpone action for another capital facilities project for another nine years,” Rich Stilley, the District’s Business Manager said.

If the new tax levies are approved, the board may move toward placing a general obligation bond issue on the April 2019 ballot.

“The district’s facilities have continued to age, and in many instances the projected costs of fixing our buildings to be more conducive to a quality education are likely to rise as well in the near term,” said Board President Mark Bross.

The board will have until Jan. 22, 2019, to determine the costs of the most critical projects in time to place a bond issue on the April 2019 ballot.

“That should give us plenty of time to sift through the priority HVAC improvements needs in each building to develop our general obligation bond proposal that addresses a multitude of our highest priority problems to solve,” Bross said.

A 22-cent increase in the overall tax levy would mean a homeowner with a house worth $100,000 in Hannibal would see an increase in personal property taxes of $41.80 per year.

The expected $4.24 levy would place Hannibal in the middle of the pack in overall levy with schools of comparable sizes in Missouri.

Hannibal’s operating levy is expected to be near last year’s rate — $3.17.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .