Today I write an unusual column. I always try to provide you information and opinion to help you make your money work harder, protect you from loss, or be reassured that wise decisions will bear good fruit in the long term. Today I unashamedly ask you to vote for the proposal of the Independence School District (ISD) to adjust its tax levies. It is in our best interests and I will explain why.

If you are not a voter living inside the boundaries of the ISD, you still should be able to glean some positives from it in considering how to decide your votes in other elections. Other school districts will probably need your permission someday in a similar issue.

It is unfortunately but necessarily complicated. Last week Mike Genet of The Examiner staff did a good job of explaining the dilemma of all Missouri school districts. They must make the best guesses they can to set their operating and debt service levies in advance of the time in which they will actually know the dollar amount of their total assessed values.

The total value of the tax base is a guess every year since one cannot know that number until assessors’ work is concluded at year end. Put yourself in the Board’s chair and imagine the complication this year in light of the ridiculous reappraisals produced by Tyler Technologies under contract with the county. How many individual property appraisals will decline and what will be the total reduction in the value by year end?

In Missouri, in 1980 led by the business owner Mel Hancock, we passed a constitutional amendment to clamp a lid upon the level of tax increases that may legally occur from year to year. This has driven politicians to distraction ever since. But it may be a primary reason why Missouri is one of the most fiscally sound states in the Union. The only way to increase a tax levy in any jurisdiction is to give your permission by voting for it.

Consider an imprecise analogy using your own household budget. Let’s say your required mortgage payment is $800, but you have been paying $1,200 a month. Your total other living expense is $3,000. Now inflation has caused the price of everything else but the mortgage to rise. The same stuff now costs $3,400, an increase of 13 percent. As a family, you could simply reduce your $1,200 payment by $400 and add that to your stuff expense.

Instead, you are on the Board of Directors of a taxing entity, the ISD. You cannot increase your non-debt spending by this simple method without a vote. Using the educated numbers and experience with these annual guesses, ISD needs to have your permission to raise its operations levy by 8 cents per hundred. Then the Board plans to reduce its debt service levy by 40 cents per hundred. Net result, a vote for a lower tax levy.

If you have not heard, teachers, bus drivers and other employees are hard to attract and retain now. Why? Other jobs’ pay has risen much faster. The 8 cents will produce about $9 Million more per year to the operating fund. ISD promises it will be spent on its employees.

Furthermore, due to low interest rates on its debt on different amounts of bonds, the debt service levy will still be enough to support ISD’s excellent financial ratings.

How can we trust the Superintendent and Board to keep their word? I served on this Board from 1986 until 1998. I have been actively engaged as a supporter, parent, now grandparent of six students in the district. I am the proud father of Greg Finke, a current member and past President of the Board. I know of no other publicly elected entity which I would trust more than ISD. ISD has earned our trust. Vote on August 8 FOR the levy increase.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results, even when trust is involved.)