Missourians Favor Tax Increase for Public Education

February 4, 2004 -- Posted at 6:05 p.m. CST

NAYLOR -- A new poll in Missouri says residents of the Show-Me state would pay higher state taxes to help public education. The poll which surveyed more than 800 Missourians was conducted by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and KMOV.

One community in Region 8 has already approved a tax hike to help their small school in an effort to continue a home-town tradition.

The Naylor School district has just over 400 students, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The senior class has 26 students....and by any standards, it's a small school, in a small town.

In fact, it may be the only thing holding the town of Naylor together, said Superintendent S

tephen Cookson.
"In all likely hood, our community would just dry up and disappear, you know, because once you loose a school out of a community...it looses it's identity. It has such a devastating economic impact on the community," said Cookson.

When the school needed financial help, they went to the community. Last February, voters passed a 50 cent tax increase.

"We are one of the poorest schools and one of the poorest areas in Southeast Missouri and I feel like the 82% passage says something about our rural community, it says something about our school as a part of the community," said Sherry Burns, Naylor Elementary Principal, "I feel like as long as people feel about their school as people in our rural community feel, if they work hard enough they can get it passed."

Naylor went to their community to ask for a tax increase so they could make improvements to their school. One of the things they want to do is replace their elementary building, which was built in 1936. T
he money that they receive will be used to help the school with many projects.

"We're implementing a success suspect scholarship for seniors, starting with the graduating class of 2004, we have implemented a gifted program. We are working to improve our early childhood and our reading programs," said Burns.

This wasn't the first time the tax increase had been put before the town. The city voted down an increase in August 2002. But the school rallied with more publicity and put the issue back to voters in February.

Betty Abernathy is a retired school teacher and is very active in the community's Senior Center. She said the first time the issue didn't pass was because folks weren't aware of the importance of the school the community.
"They realized that the school is so important to this town and they were willing to go ahead and pass the bond issue for that reason," said Abernathy.

Education in a small town, a small community...the lifeblood of Naylor.