Lawrence area school districts all would experience a drop in their general fund mill levies under Gov. Joan Finney's proposal for a statewide 45-mill levy for schools, but school officials still hesitate to support the plan.
To raise the same $870 million generated by property taxes for schools this year, the state must maintain an average levy of 58.59 mills. A statewide levy of 45 mills would reduce property taxes by $195 million, meaning an equal amount of revenue would have to be made up through other sources or cut from state aid to schools.
Supt. Ron Burgess, Tonganoxie, said his district would see a drop of 22.64 mills with the uniform statewide mill levy.
"If there is a way to make up the difference between the total amount of money collected in the state, then I'm absolutely in favor of it," he said. "We definitely would benefit."
IF THE STATE can't formulate an equitable way to raise the additional $195 million, however, Burgess said he would withdraw his support.
"You're talking about major, major cuts," he said. "You wouldn't just lose the fat, you'd lose the lean along with it. We'd lose programs, we'd lose staff positions."
Perry-Lecompton's superintendent, Henry Murphy, agreed. A 14.68-mill reduction in the district's general fund levy looks appealing on the surface, he said.
"Anybody would be in favor of dropping the mill levy," he said. "The concern I have is that 45 (mills) will not take care of what we need. I think we're all interested in seeing something done with the property tax, but something has to happen with some other tax to make up for the decrease."
OF AREA school districts surveyed, Baldwin would see the biggest drop in its general fund levy with a decrease of 23.551 mills. Supt. John Nuspl echoed the concerns of other school officials, saying the 1992 Legislature would have to find a way to generate the $195 million.
"There has to be an infusion of some additional monies to make this work," he said. "I think it's naive for any government official to think we can equalize education and improve education for our children without additional money."
With a general fund levy of 46.175 mills, the lowest levy of the Lawrence area communities belongs to the Eudora school district, so a mandated 45-mill levy wouldn't have much effect, said Supt. Dan Bloom.
"Across the state of Kansas, it probably won't solve any problems," he said. "It'll probably cause more. As far as USD 491 is concerned, it's not going to make a lot of difference to us."
How area school levies stack up
FOLLOWING ARE the general fund and total mill levies for area school districts.
Baldwin general, 68.551; total, 76.873.
Tonganoxie general, 67.64, total, 81.19.
Wellsville general, 67.45, total, 81.26.
Basehor-Linwood general, 66.93; total, 73.01.
Oskaloosa general, 61.65; total, 68.95.
DeSoto general, 61.29; total, 67.25.
Perry-Lecompton general, 59.68; total, 69.20.
McLouth general, 56.54; total, 69.34.
Eudora general, 46.175; total, 50.871.