Archive for Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Eudora, Baldwin send mixed signals

School boards support levy for education; mayors do not

October 15, 2003


School boards in Eudora and Baldwin are endorsing a countywide half-cent sales tax increase to boost public school funding by $5.8 million.

But the cities' mayors on Tuesday spoke strongly against the plan.

"I'm 100 percent against it," said Baldwin Mayor Ken Hayes. "I don't think it would garner much support in Baldwin."

Eudora Mayor Ron Conner likewise predicted voters in his part of the county wouldn't approve.

"My guess is that they probably would not support a sales tax increase," Conner said.

Their assessments came despite decisions by the Eudora and Baldwin school boards to throw weight behind the countywide sales tax plan.

The issue is important in Lawrence because the school board here is trying to decide whether a city or county sales tax for education is best. No formal plan has been adopted by the Lawrence board, but a majority appear willing to seek a city tax.

Uncertainty has led the board to invite people involved in the issue, from parents to politicians, to a study session Oct. 27 at Lawrence school district headquarters to talk about pros and cons of each option.

A campaign to gain voter consent for a sales tax for schools requires a broad coalition of supporters, said Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman. Organized opposition could thwart passage of a tax increase, he said.

"The school board isn't going to be able to go out and sell this concept by itself," Weseman said.

Under the county option, the Lawrence district would receive an estimated $4.1 million annually. About $1.7 million would be distributed to six other districts serving schoolchildren of Douglas County.

Under the city sales tax option, Lawrence would take in approximately $5.2 million a year.

Baldwin Supt. Jim White said a sales tax would help the district avoid more budget cuts. Last year, he said, staff was reduced and class sizes were expanded.

"That's never pleasant," he said.

Eudora Supt. Marty Kobza said his school board agreed Thursday to back a countywide sales tax.

"That letter in that regard was sent to Douglas County," he said.

Hayes said lean economic times required schools to make do without dipping deeper into the pockets of taxpayers.

"Just throwing money at a problem never solved anything," Hayes said. "They need to do a better job spending that money they have."

The Lawrence school board will conduct the study session on the tax issue 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

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