Archive for Sunday, July 31, 1994

PUBLIC HAS CONFIDENCE IN BUDGET, BOARD SAYS

July 31, 1994

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The Lawrence school board doesn't expect people to be queuing up at the microphone at Thursday's public hearing on the budget.

It was standing-room-only earlier this year when the Lawrence school board discussed boundaries for junior high schools.

In 1993, talk of a no-cut cheerleading program brought out throngs of parents who thought tryouts provided healthy competition.

But when the board holds a public hearing Thursday on a proposed $54.7 million budget, you can bet that the custodian won't tire from setting up chairs.

Ironically, what's usually absent from the annual public hearings is the public. Board member Renee Karr reads the low attendance differently.

"For one thing, it's not an easy budget to understand," she said.

Karr said that's why she and the two other board members on the district's Budget Committee, Harriet Shaffer and John Tacha, began studying the budget in December.

Another possible explanation for the low attendance, Karr speculates, is that patrons generally agree with the board's spending decisions.

Throughout the year, Karr received several calls about the lack of support staff to help teachers make use of computers. At the board's July 19 meeting, Karr convinced the board to provide for more support staff in 1994-95.

"Maybe people saw that decision and agreed with it," Karr said. "Hopefully, we've helped the situation."

Karr said people haven't approached her personally about the budget, "not even when I'm out grocery shopping."

Tacha said he receives calls and letters from patrons on dozens of other issues, but none on the budget. So he doesn't attribute the brief public hearings to apathy.

"I think most people in Lawrence, Kansas, feel that our public schools are in pretty good hands and that the people in charge of the budget have been pretty careful," Tacha said. "Otherwise, there would be calls and letters from people saying, 'Wait a minute.'"

Tom Murray, the one board member who voted against approving the budget for publication earlier this month, was not available for comment.

The budget calls for a levy of 59.99 mills. A mill is $1 of property tax for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

That would mean an annual bill of $552 for the owner of an $80,000 home, up $28 from the 1993 levy of 56.94 mills.

Of the 3.05-mill increase, the state is responsible for 2 mills. That's because the statewide school mill levy is jumping from 33 mills to 35 mills.

The local 1.05-mill increase is going mostly toward salary increases.

Teachers and classified employees will receive an average pay increase of 3.94 percent. Administrators will receive an average increase of 3.5 percent.

The public hearing will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the district's Service Center, 3705 Clinton Pkwy. The board can decide to lower the budget at that time but can't increase it.

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