JEFFERSON — When Jefferson city property owners open their tax bills in the coming year, the envelope also might contain an insert from the School District of Jefferson delineating how much of its portion goes toward private school vouchers.
This information is not included automatically on the tax bill, as both voucher dollars and regular School District of Jefferson funds will go into one line of the tax bill, under the public school district’s name.
However, believing that taxpayers should be aware of voucher funding, school district officials plan to make a request at the Nov. 19 council meeting to place the informational insert in the bills sent out by the city.
This follows passage of a resolution by the school board Monday night supporting the inserts.
School officials said that private school vouchers are a relatively new phenomenon, but the amount of tax dollars set aside to support local residents going to private schools has been rising steeply each year.
The inserts would provide the monetary breakdown only, and would focus on just this one tax year, without touching on the trends.
“The stance here is not pro-voucher or anti-voucher,” said Mark Rollefson, superintendent of the Jefferson schools. “I fully support and want to see vibrant parochial education options available in our community. We have a great relationship with our parochial schools, and we work together on many things.”
The issue, rather, is one of transparency, Rollefson said.
When people receive their tax bill and see the number marked for the Jefferson schools, they might assume that all of those funds go toward the local public school district, when, in fact, a growing portion is tabbed to assist students in area private schools.
“The public deserves to know where their money is going,” Rollefson said.
The district’s total tax levy for 2019-20 is $11,281,360. Of that, $365,153 will go toward the private school voucher program.
“I fully support this,” board member Terri Wenkman said.
She noted that she only wished the inserts could include the numbers for recent years, as well.
“The most striking thing is the huge shift of the tax bill, watching the growth of these amounts,” she said. “I would love to be able to show the progression.”
School board member Dick Lovett agreed that vouchers are having a significant impact on the district tax bills and he, too, felt the breakdown should be clear to taxpayers.
The school board unanimously passed the resolution in favor of the tax bill inserts.
“With our approval, we’ll go ask the city,” Wenkman said. “That doesn’t mean this is necessarily going to happen.”