Topeka School districts would have more flexibility to cover certain costs with money raised specifically for buildings and equipment under a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate.
While the measure would provide short-term help for funding problems, some senators were concerned that the new options for using capital outlay funds would be more useful to wealthy districts than to poorer ones.
"We're doing this, in my opinion, as a last resort," said Senate Education Committee Chairman Dwayne Umbarger. "It would be simpler if we adequately funded them and they would not have to use their capital outlay."
As sent to the House on a 27-13 Senate vote, the bill would let districts raise local property taxes to pay for property insurance, utilities and computer equipment. Districts would set the levies for a specified length of time, and voters could force an election.
Under current law, mill levies for capital outlay expenditures are limited to five years and are used for purchase of buses, equipment, asbestos control projects, acquisition of property, new construction, repairs and remodeling. A mill is $1 of taxation for every $100,000 of assessed valuation.
"We're basically doing everything we can to give local flexibility to local school boards," said Umbarger, R-Thayer.