Archive for Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Property tax increase moves forward

August 15, 2006


No one showed up Monday to protest the Lawrence school board's plan to add as much as 6.437 mills to the district's property tax levy.

The increase could add as much as $6 million to the district's current $58.7 million budget.

"There doesn't seem to be a public outcry at this point," board president Sue Morgan said after the board meeting.

Board member Craig Grant said he'd received three e-mails objecting to the increase.

"All from the same person," Grant said.

"It could be that everybody's on vacation," said board member Linda Robinson.

Plans now call for publishing a legal notice in the Journal-World, formally notifying the public of the board's intent to:

¢ Add 1 or 2 mills to the district's 6-mill capital outlay fund;

¢ Push the local option budget (LOB) from 27 percent of the district's general fund to 30 percent;

¢ Take advantage of a new cost-of-living (COLA) provision that gives Lawrence and 17 other districts the authority to raise taxes for teacher salaries because of above-average housing costs.

At its Aug. 28 meeting, the board will decide whether to adopt the full 6.437-mill increase or a lesser amount. It cannot approve a greater amount without printing another legal notice.

None of the three increases are subject to a protest petition. If approved, all three will take effect in December.

The Aug. 28 meeting will include a public comment session to hear objections to any of the proposed increases.

The motion to seek up to 6.437 mills in additional property taxes passed unanimously.

"These are the tools the Legislature has given us," Grant said, referring to the LOB and COLA. "I say we use them."

Other districts' finances

The board's actions hardly are unique.

"We're planning on taking our LOB to 29 percent," said Jay Hastert, business manager at the Paola school district.

"We've been at 25 percent," he said. "If we'd been at 27 like Lawrence is, we probably would have gone to 30. The only reason we haven't is because we may need it later on and we want it to be there."

Currently, the Paola district's property tax levy is 52.25 mills, slightly higher than Lawrence's 52.05 mills.

The Gardner-Edgerton school district's property tax levy is 78.01 mills, the highest in the state.

"Our LOB is going from 27 percent to 30 percent, our capital outlay is staying at 7 mills," said Eric Hansen, the district's director of business and finance.

Hansen said the district will not pursue the cost of living increase.

"There's no state-aid portion to it," he said. "Our board is against going after anything that's 100 percent local funding - because our mill levy is so high already."

It's high, Hansen said, because Gardner-Edgerton is "primarily a bedroom community" that doesn't have a lot of commercial property on its tax rolls.

"We're growing 200 to 300 kids a year, but our tax base is 75-80 percent noncommercial," he said. "So it falls on residential."

Other decisions

In other action, the Lawrence board:

¢ Agreed to have a committee study the possibility of dropping the district's transportation fee, switching to a "sliding scale," or reducing fees for families sending more than one child to the same school.

Since 2002 the district has charged each student who lives within 2.5 miles of their school a $120 per-semester fee if they choose to ride the bus.

The decision followed a parent, Seth Nation, complaining that he and his wife were having to pay a total of $3,100 in various fees for their four children.

"We're still paying off last year's fees," Nation said.

Nation urged the board to lobby the city or county to get behind a half-cent or full-cent sales tax to help the district keep pace with rising costs and eliminate the need for fees.

¢ Heard parent Linda Weinmaster complain that her son, Adam, who is autistic, is being neglected by the district's special education program.

Supt. Randy Weseman and Deputy Supt. Bruce Passman, who oversees the special education program, assured the board that they and others had gone to great lengths to accommodate Weinmaster's son.

Morgan asked Weinmaster to put her concerns in writing, noting that discussing them in a public setting seemed inappropriate.

¢ Greeted Darryl Montreau, the district's new service coordinator for American Indian students.


MWIV 11 years, 6 months ago

As the old saying goes, "buy them books and buy them books and all they do is eat the covers!" This whole deal will come to a halt when the baby boomers get their homes paid off (assuming they just don't get bigger and more expensive ones) and then they find out just how much their property taxes really are when they have to pay one half of them just before Christmas each year. Now it is buried in the house payment. "Oh well, it's (the increase) just another $15-20 per month! We can handle it", which is the current situation. Baby boomers have a reputation of getting what they want.

Lori Nation 11 years, 6 months ago

well all of those families that are out there cursing the school system for such high school fees such as our family you had an opportunity to voice your opinon last night at the school board meeting we were hoping more families would show but they didnt.(we were disappointed) but you can still voice your opinion call your board members and higher authority, make it known that the school fees are outrageous.

Katie Van Blaricum 11 years, 6 months ago

"...authority to raise taxes for teacher salaries because of above-average housing costs."
Um, because teachers have to pay higher-than-normal housing costs, that means that the rest of us have to pay even HIGHER-than-normal housing costs to give them a break? That is very flawed logic! I hate kids and I'll never use our stupid school districts. I hate to spend even more tax money on them.

prioress 11 years, 6 months ago

Don't "hate" those kids too much. If they get a decent education and a responsible job they will be putting money into your social security accounts. What goes around comes around. When we were little, some "old farts with money" were fronting much of the bill for our education. BTW: If you don't like the "housing cost" terms of the new finance law, blame the legislature, not the USD 497 Board of Education.

Shardwurm 11 years, 6 months ago

It's the old 'for the cost of one Big Mac a week you can...' That's great in theory. The problem? We're already buying 100 Big Macs a week and it's getting tiresome.

Once again this hinges on teacher salaries. Don't try to say differently. Salaries and benefits are the highest cost in any organization. So as a shareholder we should expect performance from those teachers if we're going to continue to buy Big Macs. Is that the case? Nope. Tenure and the union ensure that mediocre performance is good enough.

Prioress makes the assumption that spending more money on teacher salaries = a decent education. This is patently flawed logic.

Let me ask you this - do you think the reason other countries consistently destroy US students in competitions do so because they pay their teachers more? Or do you think it's because the quality of the instruction is better? Do you believe that just because you pay someone more to do a job you'll receive better performance? Or is it the notion that 'better' individuals will become teachers if there is enough incentive?

The truth? None of the above matters if you don't hold teachers accountable for their performance. I don't mind paying for quality work and rewarding those who deserve it. Trouble is the union and tenure block most efforts to rid a district of under-performers.

Fix that and I'm all for paying teachers a better wage.

satchel 11 years, 6 months ago

I always warn people to stay away from living in Lawrence due to the OUTRAGEOUS cost of living and how they keep raising taxes. Teachers make pretty good money for the hours they work. They have most of the summers off and lots of vacation days during the school year.

I ditto what the lady who has a son with autism said. They DON'T go out of their way to accomodate any child with autism. Not in Lawrence and in most public schools. There are some, but very rare. It is all a money game. They would rather have your child slip through the cracks than reach his full potential if it meant they had to spend more money. That is the way it is. It is a secular enviornment and the teachers/admin. don't really care about the parents much. There is not a comradre built with the families in order to have that support system. It is plastic phony stuff. I think some teachers really do care about their students, but the NEA and the head honcho's don't give a flip.. They have their agenda/religion and how they want to spend their money and they can force it on everyone including our kids.. We pay for it, but can do NOTHING about it.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 6 months ago

Shardwurm, I'd be interested in seeing the research that supports your assertion that "the union and tenure block most efforts to rid a district of under-performers." Iristh1230 is right--those of us living in Lawrence were provided the opportunity last night to chime in on the tax issue, and we punted. I don't see how this is a baby boomer issue--this is a social issue all of us own together and must reach some sort of consensus together.

bmwjhawk 11 years, 6 months ago

Show me another country that educates ALL children for 13 relatively free years that does a better job.

You're comparing bright, shiny apples to a partially drought-starved orchard.

MWIV 11 years, 6 months ago

Wilbur_Nether - You need to read the post. It is a baby boomer issue because they will be the first to really see just what the overall costs of your property taxes to each household. Right now it is buried into your monthly escrow account, etc. Wait till the loan is paid off and one half of that amount is due in December, just before Christmas. There will really start to be an uprising about just what one pays in property taxes. Some people know now, but they are in the minority as to what the total amount is. When there are volumes of people starting to complain (which baby boomers have a tendency to do) it will start to get some attention. Until then? Nothing but complaining. Good luck all.

blessed3x 11 years, 6 months ago

"No one showed up Monday to protest ..."

This was all the further I got. WHAT!!! No one protested an event in Lawrence!! You've got to be kidding me.

I'm gravely disappointed, Lawrence. For shame.

Sharon Nottingham 11 years, 6 months ago

¢ Take advantage of a new cost-of-living (COLA) provision that gives Lawrence and 17 other districts the authority to raise taxes for teacher salaries because of above-average housing costs.

Hooray. We can finally see it in print. Lawrence, in fact, does not have affordable housing.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 6 months ago

I did read the post, and the post states baby boomers but is really about property owners. The vitriolic attack on baby boomers smacks of elitist agism. Members of other generations own properties, too, after all. Even the remark "baby boomers have a reputation for getting what they want" aims at perception, rather than at finding facts and interpreting them.

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