A Lawrence school board member let out a cheer this morning to the news that an increase in the Lawrence school district's estimated valuation will mean lower than expected taxes for property owners in the district.
"Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!" Alice Fowler responded when told that the district's mill levy would be nearly 2 mills lower than earlier projected because of the increased valuation estimate.
Craig Fiegel, the district's director for business and facilities, announced Thursday that the school mill levy increase has been set at 8 mills. Before the release this week of new valuation estimates for the district, school officials were projecting a 9.8-mill levy increase.
A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
The new projected school mill levy is 77.56 mills. For the owner of an $80,000 home, that translates to annual taxes to the district of $745, or $77 more than last year.
IN EARLY JUNE, the board was anticipating a levy increase of about 12 mills. Revised estimates for the district's valuation was the reason for that figure falling as well.
"I think everyone is delighted when the mill levy goes down any at all," Fowler said.
Said School Board Vice President Barbara Ballard, "We have budgets, and everybody's household has a budget too, and this should help."
A $2.6 million drop in state aid to the district is almost entirely responsible for the mill levy increase, which would have been higher had the school board not approved $975,400 in budget cuts and cost-saving measures.
Board member Jerry Hannah, who pushed to trim the budget even more, said he was pleased with the new mill levy figure.
"I've been following other school districts around us, and I think the board did a good job of reducing the budget and at the same time protecting our most valuable asset the teachers," Hannah said.
ALTHOUGH teacher and board negotiators at an impasse regarding teacher salaries, the board renewed all teacher contracts. Hannah said he also is pleased that the 1991-92 budget allows for hiring 10-12 new teachers to handle enrollment growth.
While the new district valuation will mean a lower mill levy increase, it also will mean increased revenues for some district funds.
Board policy calls for the district to make full use of its capital outlay budgeting authority, which this year is 4 mills. With the increased valuation, the levy will bring about $1.26 million into the capital outlay fund, or about $30,000 more than previously anticipated.
Also, revenues for adult basic education will be about $46,800, or $1,200 more than under the previous valuation estimate.
Fiegel said he determined the school mill levy using a district valuation of $315,200,000, which is below the $316,066,128 estimate provided by Douglas County officials. Fiegel said he used a conservative estimate because some property valuations may be lowered through the appeals process.
THE LAWRENCE school district also extends into areas of Leavenworth and Jefferson counties, and Fiegel considered the district's valuation in those counties when projecting the mill levy.
The final district valuation will be known in September.
Douglas County's new valuation figures also have affected the proposed mill levies of Douglas County and the city of Lawrence.
The city mill levy will decrease only slightly, from 28.36 to 28.32, if the Lawrence City Commission accepts City Manager Mike Wildgen's proposal to increase the city's projected property tax delinquency rate from 3 percent to 5 percent.
The county's valuation increase, combined with more than expected ambulance revenues and a proposed increase in ambulance rates, decreased the county's proposed levy 1.116 mills to 27.959 mills.