Archive for Tuesday, August 29, 2006

School board OKs tax increase

Lawrence district approves additional $4.9M in levies

August 29, 2006


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Supposedly, Mark Twain observed that while just about everybody talks about the weather, nobody does anything about it.

The same could be said about Lawrence's property taxes.

No one showed up Monday to protest the school board's plan to tap the district's property taxes for an additional $4.9 million.

"I think this says Lawrence is a community that supports education," said board president Sue Morgan.

The board had the authority to levy an additional 6.437 mills but opted to shave 0.52 mills from the 2-mill increase proposed for the district's capital outlay fund.

"I believe the increase is needed - just not as much," said board member Craig Grant, who proposed the lower levy. "This is still an increase, it's just not as much."

Grant's motion passed unanimously, though board members Rich Minder, Linda Robinson and Cindy Yulich warned that delaying maintenance and repair projects put the district in a position of having to spend more later.

Board member Leonard Ortiz noted that the projected declines in the district's enrollment may reduce the stress on its buildings.

"I lean toward the idea of reducing it," Ortiz said.

Grant's motion cut about $450,000 from the proposed $1.8 million increase for the capital outlay fund, which can be spent only on equipment and building repairs, remodeling and maintenance.

At the same time, the board:

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

l Enacted 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.

Most of the LOB ($1.7 million) and all of the COLA ($1.3 million) will be used to underwrite an 8 percent pay raise for the district's 850 teachers. The raise won tentative approval last week.

After the meeting, Grant said he'd fielded tax-hike concerns from five constituents. Morgan said she heard from a comparable number.

"It wasn't an overwhelming number," she said. "Some of the ones I heard from said, 'Please do what you can to keep the mill levy down,' and then many of them went on to say they supported giving teachers a pay raise."

Funding decisions

Because salaries account for more than 85 percent of the district's general fund budget, it is difficult to give teachers raises without additional revenue from either the state or local property taxes.

Morgan warned that even with the 8-percent increase, the district's teacher salaries lag behind those in neighboring Johnson and Shawnee counties.

"I think it's pretty clear this a community that supports education," Morgan said. "I just hope people understand the position we've been put in with the (state's) recent school finance decision."

Earlier this month, it became clear that all but about $600,000 of the district's $2.8 million increase in state aid had to be spent on special education and at-risk programs.

"Philosophically, none of us on the board think that education ought to be funded, substantially, on the local level," Morgan said. "But the state has chosen to go a different way, and this is pretty much what we're left with."

Morgan and others said the district's budget has been - and remains - hamstrung by low enrollment growth and more affluent districts to the east and west.

Steady enrollment

Board members have been told to expect steady to declining enrollments for about five more years.

"We're seeing a slight increase on the elementary school level and slight decreases on the middle- and high-school levels," said Robert Schwarz, a demographer with RSP Associates, an Overland Park firm hired to keep tabs on the district's growth.

Property tax calculator (omnibus)

Property tax calculator

Enter the 2005 value of your property and choose whether it is residential or commercial.

Type of property:

Note: values shown are provided for informational purposes only and are based on an average home value increase of 4.5% and the proposed mill levy of $110.06 per $1000 and may not reflect your new property tax amount. Javascript is required to use this calculator.

"Right now, your virtual school is your saving grace," Schwarz said, noting the program is expected to add 400 students to the district's 2006-07 totals.

The lack of public comment puzzled Lawrence resident Jack Greenwood, the only person who showed up to question the board.

"I believe in paying teachers, and I expect taxes to go up," said Greenwood, who's semi-retired. "I just think there ought to be a better way to explain where all the money goes. You look at the (charts) they put out - they don't tell the layperson anything."

The district's reporting requirements, Morgan explained, are defined by the state.

Greenwood said he was impressed by the board's decision to shave 0.52 mills off the capital-outlay levy.

"I think their vote tonight proved they were concerned," he said.

The overall increase - 5.9 mills - will be reflected in the December property tax statements.


Bone777 11 years, 6 months ago

Good for the school district. Now they can afford to pay the teachers that 8% pay hike. Maybe someday the parents will be able to count on their taxes to provide for their children's education rather than having to pay all of the extra fees, like when I went to school.

lunacydetector 11 years, 6 months ago

education needing more money will never end.

where was the protest? when was the meeting? it was apparent it was a done deal beforehand anyway.

teacher: johnny's parents didn't want me to get a raise this year. i'll show them. poor johnny.

the answer is: school vouchers.

Nikki May 11 years, 6 months ago

Vouchers would still cost money. And most research now shows that it's not working anyway.

Pilgrim, I agree that no one (well, then they go on to say one guy) showing up is not a mandate. And I hate taxes as much as anyone, but really what's the solution?

bmwjhawk 11 years, 6 months ago

Eh, you all sound like whiny defeatists. If you are so much against the increased taxes, you should have shown up to the public forum. It was clearly announced when and where the meeting was taking place. While it may not be a "mandate," there was clearly no anti-tax outrage shown to the School Boad. You complainers don't really have much of a leg to stand on, except the complaining leg, which seems to be a popular leg.

lunacydetector 11 years, 6 months ago

where are school vouchers being used punkrockmom?

janeb 11 years, 6 months ago

"I think this says Lawrence is a community that supports education," said board president Sue Morgan.

Would protest have changed the hike? No the plan was already in place.

Nice quote though Dave.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

I thought that meeting was today? I look at the paper every day and do not remember anything about the meeting being on monday. oh well My mistake I guess.

middleoftheroader 11 years, 6 months ago

board members Rich Minder, Linda Robinson and Cindy Yulich warned that delaying maintenance and repair projects put the district in a position of having to spend more later.------------------------------------------------------- okay, so when time has gone by and we the taxpayers have earned more. and the repairs are now necessary. we'll pay for them. i'd much rather pay for something on installments than all at once. besides even if we paid for everything that they want now, dont you think in the future they'll come up with another reason to raise taxes? of course they would... and will

oldvet 11 years, 6 months ago

As they keep it up, both the school board and the city/county, someone will run and win on a platform like the California Prop 13, where ANY tax or levy increase had to be voted on in a general election... and maybe it is time for that!

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

How many teaching positions in USD 497 went unfilled this year due to low salary?

christie 11 years, 6 months ago

School Vouchers are nothing more than a handout for the rich. I find it ironic that most Republicans support vouchers. It's nothing more than a handout.

Nobody showed up..... HA !, I'm not surprised. The apathy in this community and this country disgusts me. People whine and whine and whine and then you find out they don't even vote or voice their opinion.

No wonder we have bozos like Dumsfeld and Cheney and Bush running this country. They same old farts have been running this country since NIXON !!!!!

Prop 13 in California DEVESTATED the school system by the way, so that is not the answer.

middleoftheroader 11 years, 6 months ago

godot im sure none went unfilled. or even if there were. they obviously managed without them. but my question is how many more qualified educators turned down the positions because of the low salary.... its like the old adage says.... "You get what you pay for".

common_cents 11 years, 6 months ago

Vouchers work in the sense that they give citizens the ability to vote with their money and their feet. The media postures against vouchers by stating that it helps the "rich." People say that vouchers hurt school districts... that only happens because when vouchers are put in place, school boards cut spending in those places that will hurt students and thus get the largest public outcry. Try cutting administrative expenses. I can guarantee you any common person could take one look at their budget and find places to cut that would not impact students in the least.

Give me a break. Take your money grabbing politics elsewhere.

This increase was put in place to increase the teachers' salaries, which is turn was done ONLY so that administrative salaries could be raised. There is a historical pattern in the raising of teacher salaries and the subsequent raising of administrative salaries. Watch and learn folks... those raises will come shortly... Most likely right after the school board elections.

ladysilk 11 years, 6 months ago

If you are a parent of a child in Lawrence Schools you know that we pay almost as much out of pocket for public schools here than we would if we sent our kids to a private school. This money will not change a dang thing... I agree with macon47...that was a giant flushing sound and the bowl was full of crap.

justthefacts 11 years, 6 months ago

"Vouchers are handouts to the wealthy. Let's face it folks, only the wealthy can afford private schools."

So, have you actually tried to get your child into local private schools? Or are you just assuming you know how it works? My children went to a private school in Lawrence 1-6 grade. I paid NOTHING. Because I could afford nothing. Anyone who can't afford the school can make it happen. I worked (after work hours) on school related projects, donated time etc. Now that I'm on my feet, I pay a tithe so that other people who cannot afford such school for their children get the benefit I did. THAT is how the system worked for me. And I still pay taxes so other people's children can go to public schools.

Vouchers would force the public school system to enter the free market system; If it works well, people will stand in line to get their child into the school, private or public. If it doesn't work, the parents will take their money elsewhere and find a school that gives them the most for their money. If all parents have the same $ to pay (in vouchers), how does that kind of system help only the rich?

bmwjhawk 11 years, 6 months ago

"{If you are a parent of a child in Lawrence Schools you know that we pay almost as much out of pocket for public schools here than we would if we sent our kids to a private school."

I'll go ahead and third the aforementioned snorts and NOT EVEN CLOSE responses.

SO MUCH WHINING. The fees may be an inconvenience for those that have to pay them, but the value of the education your child receives is several, several, several times that.

justthefacts 11 years, 6 months ago

More info on school vouchers:

School vouchers, also known as scholarships, redirect the flow of education funding, channeling it directly to individual families rather than to school districts. This allows families to select the public or private schools of their choice and have all or part of the tuition paid. Scholarships are advocated on the grounds that parental choice and competition between public and private schools will improve education for all children. Vouchers can be funded and administered by the government, by private organizations, or by some combination of both.

Government-run voucher programs are very controversial, and they have been criticized from two very different angles. The first body of criticism alleges that competitive markets are not well suited to the field of education, and that any school reform based on privatization, competition, and parental choice is doomed to failure. The second body of criticism states that government-funded scholarships would not create a genuinely free educational market, but instead would perpetuate dependence on government funding and regulation to the continued detriment of families.

Those who support voucher systems point to the broader range of educational choices it allows parents and children, and there are statistics showing that where the system is employed public school systems improve in order to attract students.

Klickhammer 11 years, 6 months ago

I'd much rather spend close to a trillion dollars on the military than on education. Why is it that whenever education comes up, people complain about paying for it? The illegal wars, the military, nobody seems to complain. But, education, what a waste of money.

Klickhammer 11 years, 6 months ago

School vouchers/privatizing the school system is a great way to un-democratize our children's education, convert school in money-making machines for the private sector (especially for religious education, which is all the voucher system seems to be good for), and to ensure that education is handed out on a needs basis (i.e., shutting the have-nots out entirely).

Rationalanimal 11 years, 6 months ago

This tax hike is the fruit of the City Communishers' anti-business policies.

When the golden goose is rendered constipated from bad policy, funds have to come from somewhere. Property owners will always be within the convenient arms reach of tax and spend socialists imbedded in City Hall. Thus, the property owners in Lawrence will always be the fallback pseudo-golden goose because of the misguided policies of the 5 City Communishers.

middleoftheroader 11 years, 6 months ago

ok i admit it. i dont understand why the fuss about vouchers. what good does it do? what bad does it do? what difference does it make? it seems to me that with vouchers there will still be public schools. it also seems to me that without vouchers there will still be private schools. so what's the fuss????

Vonda Mailen 11 years, 6 months ago

There are many opinions being stated and some deep concerns which are worth pondering. Do we really gain by putting our businesses, our seniors, and our single income parents in deeper stress by raising the property tax level so high. Or, will it mean that many in our community will now simply be unable to support the businesses in purchases, lose their homes, and leave Lawrence - not by choice but out of necessity. What talents will they take with them and how many talented and skilled families will never move to Lawrence? Who gains? Who loses?

GOPConservative 11 years, 6 months ago

I propose we divide Lawrence into two cities. The original Lawrence would be everything east of Iowa Street, and the new city would be west of Iowa and include any new developments to the west or south.

The new city, Commuterville, would create a new school district and take over all over all the schools that were built over there. We who live in the old part of town will be responsible for our schools.

The taxes in the two cities would be determined on the basis of the costs in each city. Commuterville taxpayers would pay off the bonds for their own schools and pay back to Lawrence taxpayers their share of the costs for all the new infrastructure over there.

Services such as water, sewer, police, etc. would be shared, but costs would be prorated based on population. Any new facilities needed to serve additional populations in either city would be the responsibility of the taxpayers in the respective city.

With the division of the city into two taxing districts, the people in each district can decide what new taxes they want to pay.

If people in Commuterville want to spend $200 million for a new highway to save five minutes on their daily drive back and forth to where most of them came from, let them pay for it.

If a new sewer plant or water plant or additional services are require to handle increased population, the costs should be prorated based on the respective population increase in each city.

Seems fair to me.

nbnozzy 11 years, 6 months ago

I used to work for USD 497 in the 80's and one of my jobs was to microfilm the accounts payable receipts after they were approved by the head of the APR department. There was so much spending waste at the time it made me sick. The administrators were flying all over the US and staying at nice hotels, eating great food, buying whatever materials they wanted and being reimbursed for it all under the guise of better education for attending some "seminar" so desperately needed. Yet, the janitors in the schools were expected to pay for their own coffee. I hope Randy Weseman has a better grip on what is being spent compared to twenty years ago. IF all payable vouchers were to be viewed by the public, you could bet your tax dollars would be better spent. And folks, it's not just the administrators who are so wasteful, it's the teachers too. I could elaborate more, but will hold off for the time being.

Jim Fisher 11 years, 6 months ago

Well lets see, the school board meeting falls on the same night as LHS' back to school night. Those that support education were giving "grass roots" support to their children and their children's teachers. Convient?

Vonda Mailen 11 years, 6 months ago

As a 30+ yrs. Lawrence resident, I have become very aware of the fact that this public school system is not as perfect as some would like us to think. Too many children have hit the wall of illiteracy by not being able to read and write by 4th & 5th grade. Private schooling, for those who can afford it, has turned the academic achievements of these children around. Can only hope that the "our" tax money will be applied to help all children become successful - or will the "crack" in education simply widen.

admills 11 years, 6 months ago

Anyone who is complaining needs to stop right now. You had your chance to offer arguments where and when they mattered but were too "busy" to attend the publicly announced meeting. If you can't even show up to defend your own money, you have zero right to complain. Think of it as "taxation, but was too dumb be represented." Why would anyone who disagrees with this tax increase ever blame anyone but themselves? Seems that some of us have a problem being accountable for our own actions. Yes, doing nothing was your choice of action.

Stephen Roberts 11 years, 6 months ago


Please excuse me for not going to the USD 497 website everyday. If I would have done this then I may have attended the meeting toi voice my concern.

kugrad 11 years, 6 months ago

someone wrote: "and there are statistics showing that where the system {vouchers} is employed public school systems improve in order to attract students."

NO THERE ARE NOT. There are no such statistics, at least not based on facts and published in peer reviewed journals. Competition is not an effective way to reform education. In businesses, competition works because profit is the driving forcel. The quality of the product, treatment of workers and so forth can be compromised. We cannot compromise the quality of the product of public schools (our children's education). The school as a business metaphor is an extremely poor one, particularly when it is confused with reality.

justthefacts 11 years, 6 months ago

Salaries for school superintendents in Kansas

For Lawrence (page 6 of 7) it was $143, 190.

The average teacher's salary in the same time frame is $46,907.

Who is doing the more important and valuable work?

There is data on both sides of the voucher argument, pro and con, proving nothing is known for sure...yet.

You can find support and studies for and against either side. Only time will tell.

But if you want to read a few stories, on both side of the fence, do the research and think for yourself.

School voucher studies and results, do a little googling and reading. Here is some of it, but there's lots more out there:

PRO Latest Results from the New York City Voucher Experiment by Paul E. Peterson and William G. Howell Harvard University Results of a School Voucher Experiment: The Case of Washington, DC After Two Years ... Gains of Black Students in Voucher Schools May 8, 2000 by Paul E. Peterson (Senior Fellow). Low-income African American students scored higher in math and reading than those remaining in public schools. Education Working Paper No. 2 August 2003 When Schools Compete: The Effects of Vouchers on Florida Public School Achievement Jay P. Greene, Ph.D.

CON Research Undercuts Case for Private School Vouchers ... The research results were released -- without a news conference or comment by Secretary Spellings

People For the American Way - Additional Research on Privately ... Unexplained, Erratic Test Results. No Research Basis for Expanding Vouchers. Research on the Impact of Vouchers on Public Schools ...

justthefacts 11 years, 6 months ago

Last time I looked, the board sets the salaries for the administration...And I have not missed a single election, primary or general, since 1971. You might want to watch name calling.....

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

"godot im sure none went unfilled. or even if there were. they obviously managed without them. but my question is how many more qualified educators turned down the positions because of the low salary.... its like the old adage says.... "You get what you pay for".


Then how does raising the pay of existing staff solve this problem? The only way your argument would make sense would be for the Board to fire the teachers they "settled for" and replace them with the "better" teachers that will only work for a higher salary.

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

From what Admills says, if you do not personally go to a meeting, your opinion is invalid. According to Morgan, if you write an email or make a phone call, it is not "overwhelming" enough to influence her decision.

Folks, this is not the way it is supposed to work. We all know that if people had shown up, there would not have been room for many, and that, if they spoke against the tax increase, they would have been labeled as mal contents.

This is what we get when we elect people to the school board who have a fiscal connection, past or present, to the school system. This board is not representing the community as a whole, it represents only the education community.

Hawkman 11 years, 6 months ago

so much was your teacher raise? Do high school teachers get the same as elementary ones????

armyguy 11 years, 6 months ago

"The average teacher's salary in the same time frame is $46,907"

Wow, that is more than one of my Prof's made a KU with a PhD. That is also more than several Attorney I know make. To listen to teachers, you would think they are making around 20k per year. That is plenty of money money for no more hours than are put into work.

ksmoderate 11 years, 6 months ago

A 47K salary for a teacher can't be the average for the state? Most starting salaries are in the 26-32K range, and some high schools pay their veteran teachers a decent wage after several years (10-15) at the job.

I'm starting my fifth year, and I'm up to a whopping $31,600. With a master's degree. But I chose this profession (some say the profession chooses you, and I tend to agree).

Any whining on this forum should be directed at school boards who vote to pay administrators huge salaries. Period.

justthefacts 11 years, 6 months ago

a) The school board sets salaries for administration. I never said that the administration runs the school board. Just that the salaries are set by the school boards, who do control economic issues. Since the issue is whether the school board should be asking voters for more money, I thought the salaries(esp. for administration level employees) might be of interest. Apparently not to some people.

b) You implied I didn't vote. I do. = Aspersions cast without basis.

c) The link to average salaries is included in the post. I don't know if it correct information, but if not, it's put out by the state board of education.... So.....

Just providing facts. Not drawing conclusions.

Klickhammer 11 years, 6 months ago

It isn't a handout, but it is a convenient was to sidestep the separation of church and state by diverting public funds to religious schools, as is often the case with vouchers. It's a perfect way to avoid accountability, as a significant number of private voucher schools lack the basic ingredients to produce a good education for students, who routinely test better and are out-performed by their public school counterparts.

Sure, many in the black community have pointed out that the voucher system was originally designed to sidestep Brown vs. The Board of Education, allowing white students to move from integrated schools to predominately white schools. Sure, providing a "choice" sounds great, but the people who can afford to choose are usually white children; inner city kids, kids of color, and poor kids are left at a devalued school this is the voucher system so far.

This is a gradual process by with the Business Class is attempting to break the teacher's union and privatize the school system, so they can convert the more than $500 million spent on education into private profit. The myths they propagate include: private is more efficient, offers more choice (read: racist), the teachers and school districts are living too large, and it's more free. They don't mention that the majority of US citizens don't want this.

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

If we didn't have a teacher's union, then it would not be necessary to raise everyone's salary just to attract a few good hires. We would have the ability to negotiate salary based on qualifications and desirability. Thanks to the union, mediocre teachers get paid as much as great teachers, and we all pay through the nose for it.

When you think about it, the only ones the union helps are the mediocre teachers. It must suck to be a good teacher and be stuck in this system.

Klickhammer 11 years, 6 months ago

There are always the handouts to Halliburton, overcharging the taxpayers $61 million for gas and $27.4 million for meals. But the real problem is the faked Air America scandal.

Klickhammer 11 years, 6 months ago

I'm glad you agree that the scandal was faked.

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