The Lawrence school board Monday voted to use an $800,000 carryover from the district's 1991-92 budget for facilities enhancement, but rejected one board member's proposal to reduce the district mill levy by an equal amount.
Craig Fiegel, the district's director of business and facilities, said that under the state's new school finance system, any unexpended monies from the district's 1991-92 general fund budget will go to the state. For that reason, Fiegel recommended that the board transfer the anticipated $800,000 in unspent funds to the district's capital outlay fund.
All seven board members supported that idea. However, board member Tom Murray said that with the additional money, the board should be able to lower its mill levy for the capital outlay fund.
He suggested changing board policy, which states that the board will levy the maximum mill levy allowed for the capital outlay fund. Presently, the state allows districts to levy 4 mills for the capital outlay fund. A mill is $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
LAWRENCE SCHOOL Supt. Dan Neuenswander said a mill levy of about 2.67 mills is required to bring in $800,000. Upon learning that, Murray moved that the board lower next year's capital outlay mill levy by 2.67 mills.
The board defeated that motion in a 6-1 vote.
Murray said if the district later has trouble passing a bond issue for new school facilities, "It's because you're passing up the opportunity to save 2.6 mills off the levy. It's just obvious."
"It's this kind of conduct that makes it impossible to pass a bond issue," Murray said.
School Board President Mary Loveland disagreed. She said one reason district patrons refuse to pay for new schools is that "they see older buildings continually neglected."
"This is one of our rare chances of making a stab" at addressing those facilities' needs, Loveland said.
Board Vice President Barbara Ballard said that any capital outlay funds available can be put to good use by enhancing and maintaining the district's 21 school buildings.
"WE HAVE more requests than we can ever fill," Ballard said.
The board voted 5-2 to transfer the $800,000 to the capital outlay fund, with Murray and Jerry Hannah voting against the measure.
Hannah had wanted to earmark $500,000 of the money to go toward classroom technology, but other board members said a monetary commitment to technology could be discussed later.
Also Monday, the board voted to continue the Lawrence High School boys' gymnastics program.
LHS is now the only high school in the state that has a boys' gymnastics program, so it must find schools outside the state to engage in competition.
The board voted 6-1 to budget $4,000 for the program in 1992-93. Although board member John Tacha supported the funding, he said it bothered him that only nine LHS students participated in the program in 1991-92.
"THE COST per student is pretty big," he said, adding that he hopes participation will increase.
The board also voted 7-0 to spend about $34,000 to continue busing India School students who live less than a mile from the school. The board had considered another option of spending about $30,000 to install a student dropoff area off Harper Street and a sidewalk leading from that area to the school.
Ballard said that with the district's plans to eventually replace India with a new school, she didn't think the district needed to invest in permanent improvements to the school.