Now that a Lawrence school commission has spent more than a year working toward a recommendation on secondary school facilities, some local school officials are concerned that proposals to restructure state financing of schools could make it difficult to get anything built in Lawrence.
Rather than having individual school districts continue to levy their own property taxes, Gov. Joan Finney has proposed a statewide property tax of 45 mills to finance public schools. A mill is $1 of property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
The proposal for a statewide levy came in November from the Governor's Task Force on Public School Financing. That same group proposed a another statewide property tax to provide revenue for financing school buildings.
"Future school building remodeling, reconstruction, and construction . . . should be subject to state level approval," the report says. The report adds that the State Board of Education should administer the building program and that "a formalized priority system should be established as the basis for discharging this responsibility."
PRESENTLY, if a school district does not have adequate capital outlay funds to construct buildings, a school bond issue proposal is taken to the district's voters, who support the bond issue with property taxes if it passes.
After a talk he gave this morning, Tom Murray, vice chairman of the Commission on Mid-Level and High School Education, was asked whether discussions at the state level would affect the commission's work toward proposing new secondary school facilities in Lawrence.
Murray said the commission probably would remain "pretty well insulated from what's happening in Topeka."
When the issue arose during last week's commission meeting, Commission Chairman Bob Johnson Sr. expressed a similar view.
"We cannot hold back and wait, wondering what the state's going to do," he said. "We should proceed under the assumption that it's our problem and we have to deal with it."
LAWRENCE School Supt. Dan Neuenswander said some legislators have proposed what he thinks would be a more palatable way of providing state funding for school buildings.
The alternative proposal also calls for a statewide property tax for school improvements, but district building proposals would not be subject to approval at the state level. Rather, if a district is determined to be wealthier than, say, 45 percent of all other districts in Kansas, the district would pay 45 percent of its building costs, and the statewide property tax would be used to pay the rest.
Neuenswander said it is estimated that the alternative proposal would require a statewide mill levy of 2 to 3 mills. It is estimated that the task force proposal would require a statewide mill levy of 3.3 mills, he said.