While the Douglas County Commission and Lawrence City Commission are considering raising their mill levies by less than 2 mills each, Lawrence school district is facing a more taxing situation, members of the Lawrence school board said this morning.
"They're not in the same boat as we are," board member Alice Fowler said of the two other local taxing bodies.
This year, the Lawrence school district will face a $2.6 million drop in state aid. Instead of representing 10.9 percent of the district's total budget as it did last year, the aid will make up only about 2.3 percent of the budget this year.
Even with $975,400 in cost-cutting measures approved by the Lawrence school board, the district's proposed 1991-92 budget calls for a mill levy increase of 9.81 mills, or 14.1 percent. A mill is $1 of property taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The board will discuss the proposed budget when it meets at 7:30 p.m. today in the Lawrence High School library, 1901 La.
BOARD member Jerry Hannah said he thinks district patrons understand the reason for the proposed mill levy increase.
"The message I get is, `We understand that the board's hands are kind of tied, but has the board really spent enough time going over the budget very thoroughly and looking for things you could live without for a year?'" Hannah said.
Although Hannah said the board has done a "good job" of finding cost savings, he said he wants to discuss other possible budget cuts tonight. Specifically, he is interested in reducing funding for in-service training and for the district's "revolving fund," which covers expenditures for six months beyond the regular fiscal year when the district is not receiving tax revenues.
"I just feel like we haven't spent enough time on the budget," he said. "It's a complicated budget."
Unfortunately, said Board Vice President Barbara Ballard, the district's budget is less complicated than the county and city budgets in that the district has only two sources of revenue: state aid and local property taxes.
"FROM THAT viewpoint, people understand why the district mill levy is going up," Ballard said. "It doesn't make it easier for them to accept it, though. I think people on fixed incomes are not only concerned, they're probably scared."
A 1 percent sales tax and user fees for water, electricity and sanitation are among the sources of revenue available to the city.
While the school district charges fees for such things as textbooks and building rental, board member Harriet Shaffer said city and county fees "come closer to recovering actual costs."
Shaffer said taxpayers understand why the mill levy is rising, and she said some of them would not mind seeing it increase even more.
"Some people would like to see the mill levy go up a little so we could keep the things that they want," Shaffer said.
She said many Prairie Meadows residents are unhappy with the board's decision to end busing for junior high school students who live between 2 and 2 miles from school. To reduce spending, the district will bus only those junior high school students who live more than 2 miles from school.
"EACH CUT is affecting somebody in some way," Shaffer said.
Board member Tom Murray said some local residents still have some questions about the proposed budget.
"They have seen some cuts because of the state aid problem, but the spending is still going up," Murray said. "They don't understand this and feel that they have difficulty obtaining answers to their questions."
The proposed 1991-92 budget totals $39,235,677, a 1.4 percent increase over last year's budget of $38,677,452.
Craig Fiegel, the district's director for business and facilities, said that while proposed general fund expenditures are $204,500 more than last year, that additional money does not contribute to the mill levy increase. That's because the money actually was transferred from the "revolving fund" to the general fund to help increase teacher salaries.
Although revenues needed for the revolving fund are not reflected in the $39.2 million 12-month budget figure, the proposed mill levy brings in revenues for the revolving fund.
THE PROPOSED budget does call for a mill levy increase for the district's capital outlay fund, from 2.828 mills to 4.0 mills.
This spring, the Legislature ended two years of holding the capital outlay fund to a certain dollar amount, and now the board is expected to take full advantage of the reinstated mill levy authority of 4 mills.
The new mill levy would generate about $1.23 million for the capital outlay fund, compared to the $846,000 the district was allowed to raise last year.
Lawrence school board policy calls for the district to make full use of its mill levy authority for the capital outlay fund.