Plant Benefits School
For more than 20 years, property taxes generated by the Ameren nuclear plant have energized the South Callaway School District. At first glance, you wouldn't guess this was a rural high school campus, it has new buildings, fields and state of the art technology.
All of this, in part, thanks to their longtime neighbor.
"South Callaway used to be the poorest district in the state. And of course once the start of construction of the Callaway nuclear plant began and once production of electricity began, South Callaway all of the sudden started to have a little money to build buildings and create programs they were in desperate need of," Superintendent Nick Boren said.
The nuclear plant's taxes provide 71% of the school's funds. That's about $6 million of the school's $9 million budget. With all of this tax money the Callaway County nuclear plant on the horizon is generating a lot more than power for this school.
Students say other schools envy their nuclear connection.
"They see all the nice stuff we have here and some of the other schools aren't as fortunate to get all that money so I guess they wish they could have some of the benefits that we have from the power plant," senior Laura McCarthy said.
Tax money from the plant's recent $300 million upgrade helped the school upgrade as well. A new heating system, roof, and track was constructed.
"It paid for part of the projects," Boren said. "This track was starting to degrade. The material was starting to come up."
Kathryn McCormack is a 27 year veteran teacher.
"We've had so many opportunities for our students that we wouldn't have had the nuclear plant not been here to supplement the revenues," she said.
South Callaway has 14 students per teacher, much less than the Missouri average. In addition, their dropout rate is over 2% lower than the state as well.
"We can attribute a lot of that to a more individualized approach that we might take because of our lower student to teacher ratios, just the concentrated focused effort," Boren said. "We watch those numbers very closely and work very hard to make sure we maintain a very low student drop out rate."
Ameren recently announced it's considering building another $2 billion reactor. That could mean a flush of additional money for the South Callaway school district.
"It is the pay back. There are 5,000 acres of family homes, history, and heritage, and a whole town that doesn't exist anymore," high school teacher Earl Williamson said. "And the pay back for that was the tax money that came in to the school district, within the community, the community lost that but they gained a lot in terms of the school district that we have today."
There's already space for a second nuclear reactor in South Callaway. A decision about whether to build it will be made in the next two years.