Communication Series Part 6
February 20, 2022
Part 6. Overview of Local Tax Effort and Federal Impact Aid
Dear Knob Noster Public Schools Families and Community:
With 70% of Knob Noster Public Schools (KNPS) students being military-connected to the Whiteman Air Force Base (WAFB) mission, KNPS is one of 28 school districts nation-wide who are heavily military impacted, having 50% or more of their students being military-connected. This status not only impacts how our school operations are funded, but also provides significant opportunity and responsibility for KNPS to be recognized as a national leader, thereby creating more opportunities for funding to support all our students.
As we discuss the idea of the proposed Knob Noster High School Innovation Campus, it is critically important to review and understand the unique nature of how Knob Noster Public Schools is funded. Impact Aid is at the core of this discussion.
Federal Impact Aid is a time-proven, bipartisan-supported federal funding program that dates back to the 1950s. As such, it is one of the nation’s oldest and most successful federal education programs. The mission of this program is to provide funding relief to local school districts to replace the loss of local tax revenue and to support the costs of educating an increased number of students being served related to the presence of federal property; in our case, Whiteman AFB.
KNPS receives Impact Aid each year for Basic Support and also receives additional funding for being “Heavily Impacted” (50% or greater military-student population). However, to qualify for this additional funding, the district must meet certain requirements for local tax effort as compared to a cohort of similar districts in Missouri. Currently, KNPS local effort has decreased significantly as described below. While the district remains in good standing to qualify for these funds, our threshold for qualification is very small.
Many may recall in 2013, Knob Noster voters approved a tax levy increase of 75 cents, moving the local school tax levy from $2.75 to $3.50. The topic of local effort and Impact Aid eligibility was at the core of that ballot measure and fortunately our voters approved that ballot to protect the district’s Impact Aid eligibility. However, after this vote, a significant change occurred. A utilities pipeline was constructed through Johnson County which triggered a law called the Hancock Amendment. The Hancock Amendment stipulates that if the district’s tax base increases, the tax levy must drop in order to produce the same tax dollars agreed to by voters. This pipeline construction increased local school tax revenues by approximately $450,000 annually. As a result, the Hancock Amendment was triggered which resulted in nearly half of that 75 cent voter-approved levy being eliminated. As a result, the tax levy dropped to a low of $3.16. It has slowly recovered, but still has not reached the $3.50 voter approved rate. While KNPS continues to qualify for all available Impact Aid funding, the district is just above the threshold.
The scenario above has been discussed at length with the KNPS Board of Education (BOE) each of the last six years during the required Annual Tax Rate hearing each August. In addition, each of the last six years, the BOE has received comparative data showing that the tax levy for KNPS schools is the second lowest in the entire region. Local taxpayers contribute around $2.2 million in local taxes whereas Impact Aid provides around $6.6 million annually to support our students. The relatively low local tax effort is attributed to two issues: (1) the low tax levy rate as compared to similar local districts, and (2) the overall low Assessed Valuation ($70 million) as compared to similar districts. The BOE has been briefed in recent years that the district could raise taxes significantly ($1.00) and still remain below the regional average. Nonetheless, the board and administration are committed to producing grant revenues first, before approaching our community for a tax measure.
It is important to separate the idea of local taxpayers contributing at an average rate and the idea of local taxpayers paying more than their fair share for any educational expense. As KNPS superintendent, our approach has remained steadfast to aggressively maximize state and federal funds to support our students and our school. In addition, we have aggressively secured federal grants to expand our programs. Our current pursuit of the Defense Communities Infrastructure Program (DCIP) funding to support a new Knob Noster High School Innovation Campus remains in alignment with this approach. The bottom line is, the board and I will not ask our local taxpayers to carry an unreasonable burden and will not ask our taxpayers to contribute more than their reasonable and fair share. However, we also feel it is important that our taxpayers understand that the historical local tax rate for KNPS is significantly below almost every other district in the region. Said differently, we have capacity to accomplish a facility project, through a local voter ballot measure, if required.
On behalf of the KNPS team and our 1900 students, thank you for your time in reviewing this communication series. As always, my door is open to you and our community if you would like more information. Knob Noster Public Schools – Our Mission Is Student Success!
Jerrod Wheeler, Ed. D
Superintendent of Schools
Next Community Forum: Wednesday, February 23
Our Mission Is Student Success