(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— St. Joseph's business community is lining up in support of a tax levy increase for the school district.
"Having a well-funded school system with the abilty to provide programs and activities that strengthen our youth but also provide for our workforce is very important," said R. Patt Lilly, St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce President.
Leaders said now is the time to speak up in support of a tool that they said is necessary to economic expansion locally.
This time around, the St. Joseph School District is asking for about $6.5 million more per year that would sunset in five years. Last fall, a more than $11 million per year levy increase without a sunset was soundly defeated by a nearly three-to-one margin.
"We've done what the community asked," SJSD Board Chair Seth Wright said. "We tried to make things more efficient. Now we're trying to go out and demonstrate what we need and not one penny more."
From the Chamber's standpoint, they said schools are critical in developing the workforce of the future—and quality schools are a big selling point in attracting employers from outside the community to want and come do business in St. Joseph.
"Is it a quality school system? Does it provide the kinds of education and experiences that are well-suited to them and their children," Lilly said.
Board members said they hope the public supports teachers this year, who took the brunt of the more than $8 million in cuts from the budget last year.
"What I hear loud and clear from our teachers is that this has been a difficult year," Wright said. "The classes are larger. There are behavior problems that they have to deal with and they need help."
Voters will go to the polls on April 2 to decide on the tax levy and Lilly said it's important to support the local school system.
"As a community, if we aren't willing to dedicate the necessary resources and support to the school system, it really doesn't speak very well for us as a community," Lilly said.