Archive for Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tax vote too close to call

Provisional ballots to decide district question

Voter turnout for Tuesday's local option budget election was less than expected.  Kaley Dawson voted at the First Southern Baptist Church at 4300 W. 6th Street.

Voter turnout for Tuesday's local option budget election was less than expected. Kaley Dawson voted at the First Southern Baptist Church at 4300 W. 6th Street.

April 1, 2008

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LOB election a close one

The Lawrence school district's local option budget increase gets unofficial approval today by just over 50 votes. 6News reporter Lindsey Slater has more from the newsroom. Enlarge video

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.

6News reporter Lindsey Slater contributed to this report.

Comments

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

The USD 497 vote may well be a reflection of how the taxpayers feel the district is being managed by upper level management/BOD. Our local paper came out against USD 497 management and did not support the increase. Lawrence high tax bedroom community status perhaps is not being enjoyed as much as the city and county leadership thought it might be. This has been created largely by over building in residential and there are no signs of concerns in this matter. Infill construction is still adding to the number of residential that cannot sustain itself.USD 497 is being stretched in the NW areas of Lawrencewhich means spending more tax dollars on busing or building another elementary school.Anybody for impact fees yet? Why not IMPACT FEES or EXCISE TAXES? Local real estate developers have had a great time laughing all of the way to the bank on the backs of taxpayers. This is the root of the problem.In order for the city to have orderly growth, developers need to be more responsible. Perhaps not Lawrence,Kansas but most builders and city/county government leadership understand impact fees or excise taxes are for a purpose that improve big profit making developments.

KsTwister 7 years, 2 months ago

"I would think the students would be worth a cup of coffee a month," school board President Linda Robinson said."Anyone who would believe this hype is either extremely naive or has not paid taxes to the schools in the last 6 years to the extent that Lawrence citizens already have. For this years taxes an average home in Lawrence is already paying 48.36 mill levy to the schools with an additional 9.204 mill for a USD 497 Bond & Interest. Translation = $1192.45 year, whether you have children or not . Now tell me again about that cup of coffee. Audit please. Enough is enough.

situveux1 7 years, 2 months ago

I'd rather buy the coffee and help create a fraction of a job than give it to the district to be wasted.

KsTwister 7 years, 2 months ago

That is just it, for the money they already receive they should have very,very good teachers salaries. At least that is what the previous increases were to help with. We need a math teacher here to add this up for the population and divide it by the where it actually went.

jmadison 7 years, 2 months ago

The school board gets their coffee at Starbucks, the taxpayers get their coffee at McDonald's.

toefungus 7 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence taxpayers are chumps. Thinking it is just about a cup of coffee? Well, how about forgoing a cup of coffee and making your money go a little farther. If you see a teacher, give them some coffee. They appear to need it more than you do.

rdave13 7 years, 2 months ago

I would think the students would be worth a cup of coffee a month," school board President Linda Robinson said.The no vote was NOT a vote against students Ms Robinson, it was against this type of attitude where the school system should be able to get money anytime without any corresponding accountability for their management of funds. Geez...are you all that out of touch with this voter block or just don't care that there is a group that feels that way. Look at the numbers....does that even cause pause to THINK about trying to win us over?

gr 7 years, 2 months ago

That's the problem with the school district. They want us to buy a cup of coffee for $1192.45! Since we have asked before about a detailed list of expenditures, and have failed to be presented with one, I bet there are lots of $1192.45 "cups of coffee" being bought.Taxes squandered.

LogicMan 7 years, 2 months ago

Congratulations to the Board and the teacher's union. Not only have you likely barely won an election, but you have successfully turned decades-long, nearly 100% support for your causes into a divided populace.Enjoy that $679,000 - $45,000 = $634,000. But I'd recommend that you increase your legal, PR, etc. budgets dramatically because now every move you make will be scrutinized very closely and likely challenged in court, the polls, the press, etc.

aginglady 7 years, 2 months ago

In general, Lawrence is screwed due to demographics. The above midline housing developments (our bedroom community of higher priced out of town male earners) set the tone for what a normal family should be able to achieve/purchase for their children, and funds for the school. Even with the data on families that are below poverty level, the schools still operate on a "priviledged child" attitude. After all, the stay at home mom's/MOB:mom's without borders (LOL) are the ones on the PTO, the site councils, the gift wrap committees, the room helpers, etc. Their money sets the tone. I mean, donating multiple bronze statues for the school, landscaping, etc. Dr's wives running the Xtrees for poor families for all the years their child is in school.The school's gravitate to those who HAVE not those who can barely tread water in these times.They need the help, and I'm glad those familes can contribute, but it does tend to make schools very upper crust benefactor worshipping and all that.If we lived in a coal mining town where all were just making it, then they wouldn't expect so darned much.

Sharon Aikins 7 years, 2 months ago

Now I hear from a friend that in spite of the book rental fee she pays for her children, there are not enough books to go around and they share in the classroom and are not allowed to take books home. I know textbooks aren't cheap but surely the fee paid each year takes into account the purchase of new books as needed and the reusing of a lot of those books for a few years. I asked how children could do homework with no books and she said they copy pages from the books for the kids. Now that sounds like a reasonable alternative! Instead of using all that paper and ink, why not just buy some books? I sold my home because of the rapidly excalating taxes. I have also seen a lot of waste in administrative personnel. For the salary of one staff person, couldn't they buy books? And since we are so heavily taxed, why are our teachers some of the lowest paid in the area? Seems like we have more dollars than sense here. Why doesn't the school board learn to live on a budget like the rest of us?

Eileen Jones 7 years, 2 months ago

Let this be a lesson to all of us:One vote does make a difference. The schools should have the money they need. But this city should stop wasting taxpayer money on unnecessary projects that are supposedly going to improve our economy here but somehow never do anything but enrich a very few who are already rich. When they propose a tax increase and say it is for the T or the roads, but we know it's really to address the imbalance caused by all the unnecessary decisions like the Oread Inn giveaway and the new Carenegie remodel, I'll be fighting it every inch of the way and I know others who will be with me. It's time for this city to stop wasting its taxpayers' money. Schools, the bus, social services, roads - that is where they should be spending our money. The development projects are beyond the city's means right now, and even harder times are a'coming. BTW what is Doug Compton waiting for? His Masonic Inn has been boarded up with ugly, dirty particle board for months and months now. Is he waiting for the city to subsidize that remodeling job also?

BigPrune 7 years, 2 months ago

My polling place was moved and I never received an advanced mailing about it. I wonder how many others didn't receive one?Why is it I always smell a rat when I vote in this city? Voting at a school is just like "just like" voting for a presidential election at the Democratic National Headquarters when Bill Clinton won the white house.

toefungus 7 years, 2 months ago

This passed, just barely, because no teacher was left behind, at the polls. But, there will be a bad taste in taxpayers mouths for a very long time. Believe me, the school board and administration are gloating at their victory over the hard working people in this community that support a gigantic government work force. LIving in Lawrence is like living with a pickpocket.

Eileen Jones 7 years, 2 months ago

This tax increase doesn't bother me. Education is always underfunded in America. Always.What irks me is the blatant waste by the city commissioners on projects the city doesn't need or even want. When they threaten to cut essential services or raise taxes to keep them, Lawrencians should throw the bums out. They've spent millions and given millions away, all for their developer buddies, and they have no right to squeeze the public for more tax money to pay for essentials. We're being screwed over by this city commission.

volunteer 7 years, 2 months ago

Close contest, eh? Let's shake hands and continue with our highly taxed lives. Maybe the strong No vote sent a message (but don't bet on it.) And teachers, for a while especially, please be on your best behavior. Guard against making a slightly naughty joke or remark, or enjoying your cup of coffee in front of parched students. LogicMan was correct about the level of scrutiny being increased, especially for the next few days and weeks. Some people will need little excuse to get in a teacher's face or place a mood-dampening scalding phone call.

Maxandwillie 7 years, 2 months ago

There quite possibly is some truth in the district's mismanagement of existing dollars that some of you claim. However, since all financial information and budgets are accessible through the open access law I suggest you do the research to point out specifically where the money is being misused. It will make your case stronger and you might convince some people to support your argument.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 2 months ago

This tax increases only galvanizes those of us opposed to higher taxes and more government growth. Enjoy this while you can.

avoice 7 years, 2 months ago

Most importantly, this does not bode well for the City's next attempt...coming soon...

ECM 7 years, 2 months ago

Maxandwille it isn't that easy. Most documents are netted up to a particular budget line and do not inlcude the necessary detail to determine where all the money is going.

kugrad 7 years, 2 months ago

While I am not a lover of this tax increase, it was fiscal responsibility on the part of the school board that got us here. They could have moved us to 31% WITHOUT an election 2 or 3 years ago, but they asked for less. So, those of you who want to blame the board for being irresponsible have NO idea what you are talking about, which is why not a one of you ever posts any facts to back up your claims.

Lawrenceiscrooked 7 years, 2 months ago

If the school board would manage the money they have a tax increase would not be needed. Has anyone else noticed all the dead weight on McDonald Drive? The school distric needs to be run like a business not like a mafia.

3crookedhearts 7 years, 2 months ago

"get in a teacher's face" Volunteer, what kind of attitude is that? My word, that's kind of hateful of you, don't you think? Aren't teachers under enough pressure and scrutiny for someone like you to "get in their face?" To what end? What would that accomplish? Would that really make you feel better about the tax increase, to place a "mood-dampening scalding phone call" to someone who is trying doing their job? Trying to help a child that has a 72 IQ pass an extremely difficult State Reading test that doesn't qualify for special education? Trying to teach a child how to multiply polynomials the day after her alchoholic stepfather beat her unconcious? What do you do for a living? Would you like someone to "get in your face" where you work? I should wholeheartedly think not. Give teachers a break, folks. We as Americans, not just Lawrencians need to understand that if we want to be a great country. Teachers are under enough pressure and scrutiny as it is.

toefungus 7 years, 2 months ago

The stress is so great on teachers these days they date their students.

Take_a_letter_Maria 7 years, 2 months ago

Maxandwillie (Anonymous) says: There quite possibly is some truth in the district's mismanagement of existing dollars that some of you claim. However, since all financial information and budgets are accessible through the open access law I suggest you do the research to point out specifically where the money is being misused. It will make your case stronger and you might convince some people to support your argument.--------------------------------------------------------------------------There have been numerous people pointing out the top heavy layer of administration at the District Offices. Many private sector companies have trimmed this layer of fat from their rosters in order to become or remain competitive. Those that haven't, have wallowed in the recent past or gone out of business. It is time for the school district to trim it's fat.No more good ole boy network. No more secretaries and administrators getting paid for extra duty while still on the clock for their "regular" job. No more working your "outside" job from your district desk. How about merit increases for teachers as opposed to pay based on length of service?I'd better stop before I get myself in trouble with people who will recognize my laundry list if I make it any longer.

volunteer 7 years, 2 months ago

Yikes. Some folks can misconstrue a well-intentioned post. I was trying to ward off disheartening calls and confrontations, not encourage them.Teachers, I hope the tax money that is generated really does show up in your paychecks.

kugrad 7 years, 2 months ago

It's 3:00ish and they can't update this story yet? How long does it take to count 75 ballots?

KLATTU 7 years, 2 months ago

I think teachers should be paid a lot more than they are, but my inspiration for getting up off my butt and voting YES was to raise the blood pressure of the LJW comments section regulars. $14 a year is a deal! I'd pay that every week to steam you jerks. :P

Take_a_letter_Maria 7 years, 2 months ago

kugrad (Anonymous) says: It's 3:00ish and they can't update this story yet? How long does it take to count 75 ballots?--------------------------------------------------------------------------You should have paid more attention during reading class grad - "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."

KsTwister 7 years, 2 months ago

I think voters have a right to know the outcome of their well paid for election-----what with Journalism these days?Hello, LJW???? LJW????????

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