Do The Math: Mehlville School District

If this kind of analysis excites you, it’s similar to what a firm called Urban3 out of Asheville, NC led by Joe Minicozzi does. We’re trying to get them to do an analysis of St. Louis. That takes considerable funding. If that’s something you’re interested in helping with please email me at richard at nextstl.com

Let’s continue our tour of the region this time in south St. Louis County. The Mehlville School District is considering budget cuts to fill an $8M deficit. Property values have been decreasing in the area for the last 5 years, 1.33% each year while expenses have increased 2.16% per year- not a good sign. Schools districts are primarily funded through property taxes. Perhaps a different development strategy for the area would have lead to a more productive tax base and more synergies between residential and commercial property values. Let’s see how its commercial corridor on Lemay Ferry performs compared to the other areas we’ve looked at. Let’s do the math!

The study area covers 321.5 acres with a total assessed value of $75M or $233,800 per acre. This puts it 19.4% ahead of Crestwood, but downtown Maplewood is 41.5% ahead of the Mehlville study area, The median household income of Maplewood is just over half that of the households in the Mehlville School District.

Mehlville School District’s tax levy on commercial property is 3.6641 per $100 of assessed value- second lowest in the county. The school district is mostly unincorporated St. Louis County. This means zoning and development are guided by the county. They have been a poor development partner for the district.

{The most valuable property in the Mehlville study area (Leaving out the Sears because its parcel doesn’t include any of the sea of parking surrounding it) at $806,000 assessed value per acre. Do you think it will appreciate? – From Google Streetview}

An area known for frugality, looking to more productive land uses instead of unpopular tax increases would fit the culture. This part of the county came to light recently for opposition to a low-income old folks home. They should change their tune and ask the county to revamp zoning and regulations to let the free market reign.

We have the free enterprise system, and I’m assuming that we’re still teaching that in our classrooms

The district is planning to cut its bus transportation by $500,000. Had the area developed traditionally, more kids would have been able to walk/bike to school in the first place, saving the district many millions over the decades.

Post World War II development patterns are expensive to service and are low-yielding. The most impacted with the least say are our school districts, which are hurt by the sales tax chase/ITF wars/parking minimums/single-use zoning zeitgeist. Higher tax rates and fees (for all governments serving the area) are inevitable without change and could push residents away into Jefferson County, made easier by building state-paid-for new roads and widening I-55. The chickens are coming home to roost in Mehlville.