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Archive for Wednesday, January 8, 1992

FOURTH INSERIES

January 8, 1992

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Area city officials don't agree on any single overriding legislative goal in the upcoming 1992 session, but their public education counterparts unanimously see reform of the state's school finance formula as their top priority.

"I think school financing is at the top of the list because it affects programming, it affects curriculum and it affects facilities," said Supt. Marilyn Layman, DeSoto. "Hopefully that will get center stage and immediate attention."

Johnson County school superintendents have joined school board presidents and vice presidents to develop a statement expressing their views on several finance-related issues, Layman said.

Concepts included in their draft proposal are: preservation of some local control, the necessity of new and additional revenue, the use of Quality Performance Accreditation or outcomes-based education as the standard for equal educational opportunity for children, support for a statewide minimum mill levy and statewide capital outlay levy for new construction if necessary, the need for advanced planning, and using funding to encourage and recognize innovative local efforts.

"We will finalize a proposal and take it to our legislators eventually," Layman said.

SUPT. DON WILLIAMS, Wellsville, said he, too, hopes Gov. Joan Finney and the Legislature will work out their differences this session and find a remedy for the ailing equalization formula.

"I personally think the present school finance formula, with some minor modifications, still meets the needs of our students," he said, adding that the formula has been used as a model for other states in past years.

Williams said the "hold harmless" clause in the formula should be removed. The clause limits the amount of state aid a school district can lose to 12.5 percent each year, but puts a $700,000 cap on the amount of "hold harmless" aid a district can receive.

Williams also echoed the concern of Supts. Dan Bloom of Eudora and Ed Sink of Basehor that the Legislature should equalize financing for capital outlay. Money from school districts' capital outlay funds is used for such expenditures as facility improvement projects, new construction and purchase of equipment.

"IF WELLSVILLE is a 56 percent state aid school, why not a 56 percent state aid capital outlay school?" Williams asked.

The problem, of course, is that the money doesn't exist.

"We have about $15 million less than we had two years ago and we have 12 to 15 thousand more students than we had two years ago," said Bloom, of Eudora, referring to statewide figures. "I'm sure a lot of people are concerned with taxes, but you can't consistently serve more students with less money."

Bloom said the Legislature shouldn't expect to glean the money from property or income taxes, but rather should consider a new sales tax or an expansion of the tax base to include items not currently taxed.

Most area school district officials said they have met with legislators, but are leaving the formal lobbying up to organizations such as the Kansas Association of School Boards and United School Administrators.

MAYORS AND city administrators in seven communities surrounding Lawrence commented on a number of issues they hope to see addressed by legislators this year with no particular topic taking precedence.

City councils in the surveyed towns hadn't adopted specific positions on legislative issues, and several officials commented that they wanted to see how lawmakers approach the session before attempting any lobbying.

"A lot of us are sitting back to see what the governor will throw out to start with," said DeSoto Mayor Jim Beadle.

Beadle said he hoped legislators would find a solution during the coming session to relieve the property tax burden.

"They could set up an option for counties to use an earnings tax instead of putting everything on property tax," he said, offering one suggestion. "I think the chances are pretty good that they could accommodate that."

RICK SHAIN, city administrator in Baldwin, said he would like to see the Legislature adopt a new policy for KPERS, allowing employees to collect their earnings in five years instead of 10. He also opposes cuts in local revenue-sharing.

However, Shain said the city isn't lobbying for any particular results, and generally shares the legislative views in the League of Kansas Municipalities' statement of municipal policy.

Bill Crawford, Tonganoxie city administrator, said he had two concerns he hoped the Legislature would address in the coming session.

He said the Legislature should lift the tax lid, which limits the amount of money cities can solicit through taxes, for at least a year. "It has just handcuffed cities," he said. "They should relax the tax lid for a year or two to give us a chance to keep up with the rate of inflation. We wouldn't go crazy, we still have to answer to the voters."

With an expansion project currently under way on a stretch of U.S. Highway 24-40 between Tonganoxie and Basehor, Crawford said he hopes the Legislature avoids any temptation to cut the state's highway enhancement program or slash the Department of Transportation's budget.

Coming Thursday: Issues of importance to local businesses.

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