In April 2016, voters approved Proposition R, an $85.1 million bond referendum with the primary purpose of significantly renovating Ladue Horton Watkins High School. The project targets the academic core of the building, which has not been significantly updated since being built in the 1950s and 1960s. Renovation began in the summer of 2016 and the project is anticipated to be substantially completed by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. The maintenance and development of educational facilities optimal to the learning needs of students is guided by the district’s Master Facilities Plan.
In April 2012, voters approved Proposition 1, a ballot initiative adding $.49 to the district’s operating tax levy. This was the first operating tax increase passed by voters since 1993. The district’s request came after district property tax revenue dropped 8% over five years, during which time the district made over $7 million in expenditure reductions. The passing of Prop 1 allowed the district to forego $2.1 million in additional expenditure reductions for the 2012-13 school year.
Since 2012, the district has operated under a 2% expenditure increase parameter as set forth by the Board of Education in order to prolong the need to ask the community for additional tax dollars. Even assuming assessments continue to remain flat, it is anticipated this practice will allow the district to remain financially stable without asking voters for an increase in the operating tax until at least 2020. The district has a AAA rating from Standard and Poor’s and is one of the few public school district in Missouri, and one of less than a hundred in the nation, to hold this designation.
District voters passed three bond referendums over the last 11 years to build and renovate facilities. In 2001, a $40.9 million bond issue was passed to renovate and expand existing buildings. In April 2007, a $29.97 million bond issue resulted in the expansion and renovation of all K-12 buildings, as well as upgrades in technology, safety and security systems. In April 2010, a $32 million bond issue allowed the district to purchase property with existing educational facilities. A new early childhood center was built on this property and opened in the fall of 2012. An existing building was renovated and opened as the Fifth Grade Center in fall of 2013, alleviating overcrowding in the district’s four elementary schools.
The district’s Strategic Plan was updated in the 2013-14 school year with a focus on six key initiatives centered around three broad areas of concentration: High Quality Teaching and Learning, Optimal Learning Environment and Educating the Whole Child. An updated Strategic Plan is undergoing development.