Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2007

3-mill tax increase considered

Harold Nelson, a counselor at Quail Run School, helps Alex Tomaszewski with an assignment while his class is at recess.

Harold Nelson, a counselor at Quail Run School, helps Alex Tomaszewski with an assignment while his class is at recess.

July 5, 2007


Three questions with ... Linda Robinson, school board president

Linda Robinson, school board president, talks about the proposed 3 mill increase in the 2007-2008 budget, mostly due to the extra facilities money added to the state finance formula.

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It comes down to spending more to get more.

At least that's the philosophy Lawrence school officials are working under as board members consider next year's budget.

This coming school year, the school district will receive an estimated $1.6 million in new state funding to help offset the cost of opening the new South Junior High School and other new classrooms. This will be the first year in the two-year state funding program.

But that state aid will flow into the district's general fund. And the growth in that fund means local taxpayers could face a tax increase.

That's because the district's local option budget must equal 30 percent of the general fund to qualify for certain money. So as that fund grows, the LOB also must increase. The LOB is funded by local taxpayers.

So the board is considering raising local property taxes by 3.086 to 3.586 mills.

"The only way to not have that increase would be to say, 'Keep your money,' which we have to have new desks and you have to put things in the building," board president Linda Robinson said of the new facility funding from the state.

Kathy Johnson, the district's division director of finance, said because the two-year state program isn't permanent, the money can't fund ongoing costs, such as salaries.

"The intent was that it helps school districts with all those startup costs for new schools and new classrooms," Johnson said.

The proposed property tax increase this year of about 3 mills is less than the increases of more than 5 mills each the last two years.

According to early projections, the owner of a $150,000 home in the district would see an annual increase of about $50, and total annual taxes to the district of about $1,000. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

With teacher-contract negotiations still ongoing, board members have not yet taken action on a list of new requests, including $815,184 for 16 full-time learning coaches in the district to help teachers at elementary schools and East Heights Early Childhood Center.

School districts are people-intensive. The Lawrence district, for example, spends 86 percent of its budget on salaries and employee benefits, Robinson said.

"It doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for the new requests," she said.

The district will offer all-day kindergarten at eight elementary schools because of about $600,000 in funding for at-risk students coming from the state.

Board member Scott Morgan said in general that the board should carefully consider local property tax increases.

"You've got to make real sure you need (the taxpayers) because you're asking a lot of them, particularly those on fixed incomes," he said.

Board members next will discuss approving a maximum district budget at their July 23 meeting. A public hearing will be Aug. 13.

Local government budgets have been a hot topic the last few months. Leaders in both the city and county also have signaled they may seek property tax increases.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug has proposed a budget to county commissioners that asks for a 0.75 of 1 mill increase to help fund economic development initiatives and more jail staff for transitional service programs.

At City Hall, leaders have mentioned a 1 mill increase to offer a 2 percent to 3 percent increase in salaries for city employees and to alleviate proposed cuts to the Lawrence Transit System. City Manager David Corliss is expected to release his proposed budget this afternoon.

- Staff writer Mike Belt contributed to this report.


Michael Capra 9 years ago

screw this every one needs to tell them no

Sigmund 9 years ago

The Lawrence taxpayer sheep will buy into this AND the sales tax increase. When have they ever not? If I remember correctly the average home appraisal in Lawrence is around $200,000 and three mils on every home is a HUGE chunk of change. And don't think because you rent don't think you won't be impacted, your landlord will pass this and all other increased costs off to you in higher rents.

Taking this amount of money out of the private local economy leaves less for trips to Local Burger, Local Coffee, and Loco Merc and likely more shopping at WalMart or other discount retailers. Less retail sales will mean decreased sales tax revenues. Less sales taxes means less money to buy polluted fertilizer plants and less corporate welfare for the empTy. The economic impact will last long after these politicians have moved on to higher office.

Come on Lawrence, wake up and smell the fiscal crisis looming in the future.

pinecreek 9 years ago does a district with declining enrollments continue to consume ever-increasing amounts of money? This district needs to go on a diet and get back to the basics of education and stop fleecing the taxpayer. They just don't seem to get it, we're tired of paying ever more taxes for mediocre services. But what's a voter to do? We just can't seem to get anyone that understands or cares.

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

Every time I hear " fund economic development initiatives" I beg for more clear concise itemized details.

jumpin_catfish 9 years ago

perhaps jefferson county... i can't afford this town anymore

craigers 9 years ago

All this is going to do is push people out of Lawrence. Taxes keep on climbing at a steady rate making it horribly expensive to live here. This is crazy. $50 here, $30 there starts adding up very quickly. No more taxes!!!!!!

absolutelyridiculous 9 years ago

":which we have to have new desks and you have to put things in the building," board president Linda Robinson said :"

Uh...where are the desks and furniture they were using in the old building?

No thanks. I'm doing my best to make ends meet as it is.

lawrence_citizen 9 years ago

I don't understand why the 2 year funds have to go to the general fund. The money is intended for new school startup costs, it should go to a special fund just for that. Is this a flaw in the state policies? Or a choice made by the school district?

willie_wildcat 9 years ago

Time to move out of the money pit known as Lawrence.....I agree with craigers it is getting too expensive to live in this town and this will do is push people out to surrounding coummunities.

KsTwister 9 years ago

No. This is as stupid as it gets. And we will take that no to the polls. Plan on it.

common_cents 9 years ago

Wasn't it just LAST YEAR that someone on the board stated (after the judgement by the state supreme court) something to the effect:

"We have plenty of money now, but we're going for broke." (in reference to a mil increase LAST YEAR)

Can someone find this. This is truly unbelievable - WHERE did all that money go already?

common_cents 9 years ago

What would it take to get something on the ballot to require voter approval for school board mil increases?

mom_of_three 9 years ago

If you build a bigger building, such as South Junior High, or any of the additions to the junior highs, you will need new furniture for the new space, as your old furniture will not be enough. I don't think they are getting rid of it, but bigger space needs more furniture, or do you want them to sit on the floor?

salad 9 years ago

Roundmouth!!! The gaping maw that can never be filled or satisfied. Interstate tolls, parking tickets, mysterious service fees, and school district mill levies- all to feed roundmouth. We could give this district a BILLLION dollars, and I bet you cash money they'd come back next year sayin', "we need more money! It's for the children!"

Christine Pennewell Davis 9 years ago

Can we blame it all on the no child left behind act?

Jamesaust 9 years ago

Wow. Only government bureaucrats would create a system whereby extraordinary events - like constructing a new school building - REQUIRE spending more money on everything ELSE!

In the "real" world, a credit for the value of the replaced school would be placed on the books so that the net increased budget would be quite small. Here, nothing in the budget recognizes that a capital asset (the existing building) has been lost thereby creating a budgetary reality at variance to the "real" reality.

Rationalanimal 9 years ago

"It comes down to spending more to get more.

At least that's the philosophy Lawrence school officials are working under as board members consider next year's budget."

With the wisdom of our school officials exposed by this statement, it is patently clear why public schools are failing. It is also clear why they can't manage a budget.

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

To be fair to the District, we must acknowledge that costs are increasing (regardless of what enrollment is doing): it costs more to run buses, it costs more to purchase textbooks and supplies, costs of food have increased, utility costs have gone up, and it takes a larger salary to recruit and keep a teacher even than, say two years ago. We also know that Standard & Poor's recent study found that not only does Lawrence's USD spend its money highly efficiently, but it also outperforms most Districts in the State in that regard (

Incidentally, this is a USD decision, not a City Commission decision. Demonstrating an understanding of the different levels and responsibilities of governmental bodies would lend extra credibility to the positions represented here.

Christine Pennewell Davis 9 years ago

my kids always hated it when they had math homework and they would try to use a caculator and I said no do it with your brain, of course they always said the teacher said it was ok and I would say well to bad she is not here.

rlmtyco 9 years ago

Harold Nelson, what a nice guy. He was my counselor when I went to Quail Run and headed up the Chess club, he is a super nice guy, was hoping the article would of had something on him in it.

justthefacts 9 years ago

Earth to school board (and all others who "serve" the public) STOP RAISING TAXES.

I am going to keep harping on this until I am blue in the face.

Is inflation eating up money faster then it can be printed? Yup. Are there fewer people paying into the tax till? Yup. Are the demands for services from the government the same, or more, then they used to be? Yup.

So what IS the solution?

The government - and the people - MUST learn to live within their budget/means. There is no magic tree of money that will never stop sprouting green. We COULD come up with more money, if forced to do so, for a few more years. However, eventually (and sooner then later) the whole system is going to come crashing down.

It is time - way past time in my opinion - that families and government stop robbing Peter to pay Paul. No more living on credit. No more increase in spending to keep up with all the wants. We may no longer be able to pay for our needs, let alone the wants, if spending like drunk sailors doesn't stop. If we do not do something about the out-of-control spending habits (of our nation, state, county, city, school boards, families and individuals) were are going to be bankrupt (or worse) in short order!

jmadison 9 years ago

Part of this problem relates to the imperial judiciary in this state mandating a tax increase for schools. Vote to remove the judges at every chance available.

Jaehde 9 years ago

Actually, yes, the kids could sit on the floor. It's not the surroundings that promote learning. Making do is some of what made us a great country. Use the previous furnishings and make do! What is an insignificant amount to some is breaking the backs of some of us, especially those of us on fixed incomes, and whose salaries don't rise at the same rate as cost of living. What an inane attitude, new surroundings=all new equipment. Perhaps that could have been budgeted. Is it ever enough?!

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

The judiciary is not imperial--it is Constitutionally proscribed to interpret the laws of the State and its Constitution. It has done that--the Constitution requires the Legislature make sufficient provision for an adequate education; a group of interested parties contended the Legislature had failed in its Constitutional obligations; the Kansas Supreme Court heard both sides and determined that the Legislature had failed its obligation. Neither did the Supreme Court "mandate" a funding mechanism--only an amount of funding that it interpreted to be adequate. Note (interestingly, I believe) that the Legislature failed to achieve the amount the Court decreed, and the Court's response was something close to "well, good enough." Again, hardly imperial.

jmadison, your namesake, the former President, noted that "A well-instructed people alone can be a permanently free people."

jumpin_catfish 9 years ago

This system is not working we the people are being screwed royal and I have had enough of this town great place to visit but can't afford to live here. one year and I'm gone! Shawnee Heights is close and you can get more house for less money. Ottawa even sounds good at this point.

absolutelyridiculous 9 years ago

I doubt the School Board hears what is going on here and the conversations going on at the kitchen tables, coffee houses and bars around Lawrence.

Here's the School Board's email addresses, give them a shout...and I mean shout. Perhaps if we clog up their inboxes, they will have to think for a change.

Julia Rose-Weston 9 years ago

mommaeffortx2 "Can we blame it all on the no child left behind act?" Partially, yes. Legislators are elected to write laws and they like to but they don't like to fund them.

Jaehde says: "Actually, yes, the kids could sit on the floor. It's not the surroundings that promote learning." Sure they could but then you open up a can of worms, West side kids have more then the East side kids. I've fought that one for too long. Furnish and finish the new building!

Wilbur_Nether "... and it takes a larger salary to recruit and keep a teacher even than. " I'm hearing all the complaints out there. Try having your taxes raised to fund your own pay increase. It adds up to no raise. "Incidentally, this is a USD decision, not a City Commission decision. Demonstrating an understanding of the different levels and responsibilities of governmental bodies would lend extra credibility to the positions represented here." Wilbur, I thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent comments.

So far Wilbur has been the only one who seems to be looking at this rationally and with a knowledge base. He must have been in the schools and/or attended board meetings, learned about school budgets and state laws. Many of you talk sounding like you have experience but your logic doesn't match what I experience in the schools everyday. Have you spent some time in the classroom lately? If you too have acquired this knowledge, then you should be running for school board and leading the way to improvements. Or if you feel the need to move out of Lawrence, then go. I'll be staying put despite the property taxes and people that devalue teachers. Don't bash the profession or the people doing the job until you yourself has done the job.

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

consumer1, you have convinced me (along with some of Jaehde's comments): learning can occur regardless of the quality of environment, and quality teachers are not interested in money.

I am now fully prepared to support an entirely-volunteer teaching staff for this District. Let's start the petition--replace every teacher in the District with volunteers who are willing to perform! And, since kids can sit on the floors, let's do one better and sell off the desks,chairs, tables, and other niceties they don't really need. Hey, come to think of it, we could even sell off the school buildings for nice little profits and save a ton of money by using tents--we'll have to buy camp-stoves for them in the winter, of course--because as Jaehde so cogently pointed out, "It's not the surroundings that promote learning."

And if this point of view appears to be reductio ad absurdum--congratulations, you got my point.

salad 9 years ago

hangingontohope....what perfect semantic congruency. Perhaps you're hanging on to the hope that some of that coin will trickle down to you? It won't. It goes to administrators and bloated administrator projects. I mean seriously, does an elementary school need to look like a palace?!?! 30 million for a Jr. high?!?! Are tax payers getting their monies worth when the average pay for all administrators is over $80,000/yr?!?! NO, NO, and hell NO!!! Why won't the JW print salaries for these people on the public dole????

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

salad, the LJW doesn't have to print those salaries. They are available to you for the asking under the Kansas Open Records Act.

And I'm curious--how much does a building of that size get built for these days?

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

max1 missed the point of my 9:28 a.m. post. Which, incidentally, wasn't much more than "Because costs have gone up, it is more expensive to run a school today. And Lawrence's District is doing so more efficiently than most."

But at least max1 got a nice swipe in there.

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

How fascinating. Two weeks back, offtotheright thought I was a welfare king. Today, max1 thinks I'm unsympathetic to the impoverished. To max1's remark "you don't want to address poverty issues," I reply only that I would have been happy to discuss--fairly and openly--any issue offered as something to be discussed as opposed to bait. The issues here (including poverty) are complex, and limiting the terms of the conversation is counterproductive.

blackwalnut 9 years ago

No Child Left Behind is a huge waste of money. The feds do not fund it. The children do not benefit. The teachers now teach only to the test, and all creativity and flexibility are removed from the classroom. An inordinate amount of time and other resources are spent shuffling kids around to get rid of them so a school won't see its score lowered, and in bring a few kids up to speed. The rules are ridiculous.

The only ones who benefits from No Child Left Behind are the folks at the Center for Educational Testing at KU who have the multimillion dollar contract to write and store the tests. Everybody else loses: teachers, students, taxpayers.

Godot 9 years ago

Take more money from one pocket to justify taking more money from another one. Either way, the taxpayers are screwed. I am trying to decide whether Linda Robinson is stupid, immoral or corrupt.

Yabut 9 years ago

$815,184 for 16 full-time "learning coaches"? That's a salary of $50,949 each! How can I apply for one of these positions?

blackwalnut 9 years ago

I'd rather pay more taxes for the school district than to pay for the city commission to buy a toxic waste site, a $30 million library, a multimillion dollar ice rink, and more infrastructure so developers can continue to overdevelop our town.

KsTwister 9 years ago

Obviously most taxpayers have short term memories or they would be knocking on the school boards door after getting the 5.9mill increase on their December 2006 property taxes. Yes the schools were given 2.8 million for programs and at the same time to rebuild (at least they claim they had rebuild)a $31.9 million new South Junior High. Spending like taxpayers money burns their hands and they now ask for more. NO.

Jamesaust 9 years ago

"No Child Left Behind is a huge waste of money. The feds do not fund it. The children do not benefit. The teachers now teach only to the test, and all creativity and flexibility are removed from the classroom."

Is there someone you believe you're convincing? This surely is the silliest comment of the day. (You're not a teacher, are you?)

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

Yabut wrote that "$815,184 for 16 full-time 'learning coaches'? That's a salary of $50,949 each!"

Which would be true if that $815K went only to salaries. I suspect it is instead the total compensation package, which then includes the benefits package, as well. Assuming the benefits package costs about 35% of the total compensation, that would make the salary itself come out to just under $33,117. (Please note: I don't know the actual value of the benefits, but 35% seems to be in the ballpark of a lot of companies.)

multiagelearner 9 years ago

Why don't we ask Linda Robinson how much the district is going to pay KU in tution for all the teachers they are requiring to become ELL certified. The state will compensate next year, but not all the KU tution money.
Linda Robinson board president--wow, what a sad state for the city of Lawrence.

Wilbur_Nether 9 years ago

multiagelearner, your last post seems obtuse. Would you mind clarifying the relation of your post and the story for us?

multiagelearner 9 years ago

The district is raising the mill because they are out of money. However the district and last years school board, (with Linda Robinson) voted to require 45+ teachers to attend graduate level course work for the next 5 years. Which will equal 15 credit hours at KU's tution rate. The district will receive money from the state eventually, however if this district is running on such a tight budget, and in need of money don't you think they could be a little creative on this program. When it was brought to a vote Linda Robinson and Sue Morgan didn't have a problem finding the funds to pay for all teachers, instead of phasing the program in which is what surrounding districts have done. Maybe the new school board will be a bit more logical. If you'd like more details call Bruce Passman at the "Palace"....a.k.a. ESDC.

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