Educating students is one of the most important challenges faced by every community in the United States right now, especially when it comes to financing all options people want for children. While a 54 percent majority of Rockwood School District voters supported the $43.2 million Proposition R in Tuesday's election, it fell short of the state’s requirement of 57.14 percent for passage of a bond issue. The deficit in voters was projected to be about 400.
See related article from Tuesday night: Rockwood Voters Reject School Bond Measure
With Rockwood being approximately the third largest district in Missouri and one of the biggest in the United States, many people now are focused on how Rockwood representatives and taxpayers will creatively tackle a significant budget shortfall. With 22,201 students, the district services 682 acres, making it the largest in St. Louis County.
Rockwood voters have been asked a dozen times in the past 20 years to pass similar 'no tax increase' bond measures. District officials said the last time a bond measure failed was the 2005 Proposition W. It was for $44.5 million, and it didn't pass by 230 votes. However, another measure, Proposition K, was passed the following year in 2006.
As covered in detail by Patch for the past year, Proposition R was established to provide funding in technology, safety measures and infrastructure or maintenance of current facilities. The district has 35 buildings throughout 150 square miles, resulting in 3.6 million square feet of school facilities. It stands to reason all this infrastructure requires a little love and care throughout the years, but how to plan for that maintenance became a key question and debate these past couple of months.
This year's bond was recommended by Rockwood's Facilities Committee, which is comprised of district staff, parents and patrons. Rockwood Board of Education directors sat through many presentations from the district's Technology and Finance Committees regarding recommendations and priorities.
This week, district spokespeople were quick to remind everyone the needs of the school district do not go away, just because a bond issue did not pass.
What Next Steps Should Be Expected?
Rockwood officials promptly established an online forum this week to solicit patrons' comments by asking: What suggestions do you have for addressing the safety, technology, heavy maintenance and infrastructure needs of Rockwood schools? To log your answers or ideas, click here.
Before answering the online survey, it might be helpful to review the safety improvements for playgrounds, fields, fire alarm systems and electrical systems identified in this lengthy budgeting process, as well as maintenance needs for roofing, masonry and heating and air conditioning units. With the first Rockwood school being built in 1934, all the district's buildings range from 30 to 80 years old.
Pure maintenance needs will be among the first task the district's representatives will have to determine how to cover. "We always have to be sure we can turn on the air-conditioning in August and count on it when school is scheduled to start," said Rockwood Board of Education President Janet Strate. "Those day-to-day issues that affect students, teachers and staff are always front and center in our minds."
Strate told Patch the district's board of directors again would solicit input from Rockwood's various committees, to combine with the feedback they receive from parents, patrons and other districts' representatives.
Editor's Note: Thanks to the many, many Patch readers who this week shared their perspectives about Rockwood finances in the previous Patch article: Rockwood Voters Reject School Bond Measure. Regardless of whether readers supported or opposed Proposition R, there were plenty of good ideas and viewpoints offered. We plan to dissect those and offer up some patterns for further considerations. Thanks for all your feedback there—keep the concepts flowing. Rockwood officials have indicated they are monitoring your feedback on Patch.