Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Laws limit financing for different school purposes

March 31, 2003


A school bond to generate money for Lawrence teacher salaries might be popular with voters.

Just one problem.

"It's against the law," said Supt. Randy Weseman.

Kansas statutes designed to bring equity to financing of public schools in the state define what local districts can and can't do when acquiring and spending money. Laws provide guidance on everything from paying teachers to constructing schools.

Those limits are an issue in the current debate about the Lawrence school board's proposed $59 million bond issue for school construction and renovation. Voters go to the polls Tuesday to approve or deny the bond and elect four board members.

State law requires each district to split its budget between a general fund and a capital outlay fund.

Districts receive general fund appropriations based on full-time equivalence of students served, which is adjusted to reflect enrollment of at-risk and special-education students. That adjusted figure -- 12,846 -- is multiplied by base state aid per pupil, which stands at $3,863. Under the formula, the Lawrence district receives $49.6 million annually in base aid.

State law permits districts to levy as much as 25 percent of this general fund through a local-option budget. Lawrence levies the maximum LOB and this year will receive $12.4 million.

That brings the total general fund to $62 million.

"Kansas law does not allow districts to levy additional money to support the general fund," Weseman said.

Under the bond proposal, $59 million for facility upgrades would go into the capital outlay fund.

That revenue would be on top of $4.3 million the district raises annually for the capital outlay fund with a special property tax. The annual allotment is used for routine construction and renovation projects or to equip school facilities.

Money in the capital outlay fund can't be used to pay operating costs, such as teacher salaries and benefits.

However, the district last year transferred expenditures to the capital outlay fund that formerly were paid out of the general fund. That amounts to about $250,000, Weseman said.

Several candidates for school board have advocated creation of a sales tax to provide additional revenue for public schools. A lawsuit has been filed to challenge a new sales tax for schools in Johnson County.

School districts have no legal authority to levy a sales tax for public schools. Those decisions are the jurisdiction of a city or county government, Weseman said.

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