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."
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.