Local option budget
Lawrence school officials were keeping their fingers crossed Tuesday night that the unofficial local-option budget election results would hold up.
But with an estimated 74 provisional ballots still to be considered, proponents and opponents of a slight property tax increase will wait for the official word until Friday's canvass. On Tuesday night, "yes" votes held a slim lead, 3,783 votes to 3,730.
"We're guardedly optimistic," said Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent of Lawrence schools.
Voters were deciding whether the school board could have an extra $679,000 through a 1 percent increase in its LOB, funded by local property taxes. Board members had said it would amount to about an extra $14 annually in property taxes for the owner of a home valued at $200,000.
"I would think the students would be worth a cup of coffee a month," school board President Linda Robinson said.
Scott Henderson, a Lawrence retiree who opposed the LOB increase, blamed the low turnout, which was 11.6 percent.
"If it passes, it will pass because enough people didn't get out to vote against it - voter apathy," Henderson said.
Proponents also voiced disappointment with the turnout.
"We have an issue as a community that we need to address how we get people out to vote," said Adela Solis, a Cordley School teacher and Lawrence Education Association president.
Henderson also said the media did not report enough about how the increase would hurt people, especially those living on fixed incomes, during tough economic times.
Passman acknowledged the economy likely played a factor in making the vote so close.
"This is probably a message to us from our taxpayers, and rightfully so, that they've got concerns about higher taxes because they're trying to survive," he said.
But Solis said - if the results hold up - the vote could also show Lawrence's support for education during tougher economic times.
School board members said the LOB increase was their only way to get a total of about $1.8 million in state and local money to negotiate raises for staff members and possibly fund other programs, like the WRAP program, which places Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center social workers in some schools.
Board members are in the midst of months of negotiations with the LEA, and the rest of the budget will be decided in coming months.
As for the election, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said typically about 80 percent of provisional ballots end up counting when county commissioners make the tally official. He also said that, traditionally, those votes follow the rest of the election trend.
In the other county election Tuesday, Lecompton voters elected Christy M. Mallonee, Jennifer L. Smith and Jimmy Wilkins to three City Council positions over Ed Smith. Lecompton voters also approved, 36-21, a 1 percent sales tax for infrastructure maintenance.