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Archive for Tuesday, January 15, 2008

School board eyes tax increase

January 15, 2008

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Lawrence school board discusses budget

The Lawrence school board laid the foundation for budget decisions for the 2007-08 school year on Monday night. Enlarge video

An election may be on the horizon this spring for Lawrence voters.

Lawrence school board members on Monday night explored asking for a property tax increase that would generate an estimated $680,000 that could fund raises for teachers and help to provide mental health services.

It would be an effort to tap an extra 1 percent into what is called the local option budget (or LOB) and would put the district at 31 percent of its state funding, the maximum allowed under law. Administrators also estimate the district will get just more than $1 million in unrestricted state funds for next year.

Board vice president Craig Grant called increasing the LOB a necessity and stressed the money could be used to boost teacher and staff salaries.

"My initial reaction is we're going to have to do this," he said.

Mary Loveland voiced frustration with the recent change in state law that now requires an election for school districts to increase their local option budget. Before, taxpayers would have to protest the increase to require an election.

Loveland said seeking the extra LOB funds was probably "unavoidable" because of demands on the budget, but she stopped short of endorsing it.

"I don't have enough information. I'm not at peace with it yet," she said.

Other board members asked for more specific information about the property tax increase before they make a decision, likely on Jan. 28. Superintendent Randy Weseman said it would likely amount to a half-mill increase for taxpayers.

Grant said he could see the public approving the extra funds if proponents stressed staff raises and other needs.

A plan presented a possible election date of April 1, and it would cost the district an estimated $43,000 because no county election is planned that day, County Clerk Jamie Shew has told administrators.

In other budget talks Monday, school board members also heard it would cost an estimated $12.2 million to overhaul practice facilities, including installing more artificial surface fields and adding more lights at Free State High School and adding fields and parking at Lawrence High School.

The district is still talking with Haskell Indian Nations University leaders about improving Haskell Stadium, where both high school football teams compete.

Board members did unanimously authorize administrators to explore how the financing tool performance contracting could help pay for projects, such as adding artificial field surfaces and lights.

In a 5-2 vote, board members also agreed to designate an expected $2.4 million leftover in bond money and interest from the 2005 bond issue to help begin planning to improve the high school outdoor athletic facilities.

Marlene Merrill and Rich Minder dissented and said that much of a commitment was unnecessary at this point.

"Even though it was a split vote, everybody is committed to essentially the same goal here," board member Scott Morgan said.

Unrelated to outdoor athletic facilities, board members also unanimously authorized administrators to seek bids on an estimated $1.4 million worth of projects, such as $510,000 to complete security camera installations and $200,000 to repair district sidewalks. As part of the consent agenda, the board also approved a $80,240 bid to install lights at the Free State softball field.

Comments

Keith 6 years, 11 months ago

Oh yeah, this spring will be a great time to ask for a tax increase. USD497, learn to live with what you've got, lose a couple of administrators, it can't hurt.

craigers 6 years, 11 months ago

How about......NO! Do these people think our pockets are just full of money to hand out?

Shelley Bock 6 years, 11 months ago

"KS (Anonymous) says:

Cut the budget and not with teacher salaries. How about some sports programs getting cut this time?"

Which sports programs would you cut, I'm curious?

Lori Nation 6 years, 11 months ago

How about NO. Maybe if we started having the teachers work every Wednesday a (FULL DAY), since most teachers aren't using the time to catch up on school work. If you can prove to me that these teachers want to work harder then maybe.

toefungus 6 years, 11 months ago

I am so sick of the school district always asking for more and more. It is time to get out of Lawrence.

commuter 6 years, 11 months ago

They want to increase the mill lvey and they still keep those stupid fees. In the 2005 bond, bond money was approved for technology but they still charge us for fees. I do not mind either a tax increase or school fees but not both.

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

"How come we have billions to spend on wars but have overcrowded, mismanaged, dilapidated schools?"

Overcrowed, maybe. Mismanaged, definitely. Dilapidated??? Where in Lawrence? They all look like upscale hotel atriums!

Confrontation 6 years, 11 months ago

The teachers shouldn't receive any raises until they can prove they're doing their jobs. Most other occupations require you to show progress in order to make more money. Teachers get off too easily and follow low standards.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

Why not ask permission to convert the 2.4 million to teacher salaries and expand on the VO-Tech classes??? Let's put the money to education. Otherwise how can you expect taxpayers to approve any tax increase?

Teachers and education first please.

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

Oh yeah, the point: your tax increases will go toward grade inflation and dumbed down standards. It will also go toward glorified buildings, tiny teacher raises, huge administrator raises, and additional administrator hirings.

Mkh 6 years, 11 months ago

"such as $510,000 to complete security camera installations"'

Take away their Big Brother funding money and give it to the teachers directly. No More Taxes!

deskboy04 6 years, 11 months ago

I think that they should increase the salaries of all of the administrative staff.

Wilbur_Nether 6 years, 11 months ago

kugrad, you're barking up the wrong tree. Sadly, few people here listen to reason or good sense. I sure wish it were different.

KS 6 years, 11 months ago

Cut the budget and not with teacher salaries. How about some sports programs getting cut this time?

commuter 6 years, 11 months ago

They do. Because most of the administration haven't worked outside public funded jobs. Don't get me wrong but there are some good admins at USD497 (Gammill, Passman, etc) but there are more that should be let go (Weselman, Braccinno, Dirctor of Finance).

They want more money without any real accountability. The board is only focused on the budget and not comparing budget to actuals.

I am really disappointed that they now want to takle 2.4 million for practice fields. Why can't they use that money for the junior high schools and high schools. If they belive the community wants all of this extra sports facilities, put a REAL biond issue with only sports facilities on the ballot. They won't because they know it will fail.

monkeyhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

"In a 5-2 vote, board members also agreed to designate an expected $2.4 million leftover in bond money and interest from the 2005 bond issue to help begin planning to improve the high school outdoor athletic facilities."

That money should be given back to the taxpayers. Weren't the bond issues clear on what the money went to? 2.4 million is a significant amount to be a "leftover". How could the estimates be so far off?

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

And heeeeere it is! The tax increase we've all been expecting, even though they made a big deal about decreasing the mil levy by teensy bit last year. It's so they can say, "Well last year we decreased taxes for schools, so now we have to increase because of ---insert BS here---". $680,000 for teacher salaries and mental health?!?! That's a puny raise per paycheck on the average teacher. I can just see it now: (magnanomous administrator) "Here little teacher, there's an extra $5/week....I know you'll spend it on your classroom."

aeroscout17 6 years, 11 months ago

toefungus wrote "I am so sick of the school district always asking for more and more. It is time to get out of Lawrence."

Good luck. The last three places I have lived in 15 years have been the same way. How come we have billions to spend on wars but have overcrowded, mismanaged, dilapidated schools?

moo 6 years, 11 months ago

How about we quit wasting money on things like the completely ineffective "war on drugs" and pay for education (including sports and fine arts education). School funding is one of the main reasons we have a government, and it should be one of their larger considerations. I wouldn't mind having taxes raised to pay for this if so much of my money wasn't already being wasted on busting cannabis users and enforcing other silly morality laws. We have a government to, among other things, ensure that our children are adequately educated, not to police our private lives.

aeroscout17 6 years, 11 months ago

salad: I wasn't just talking about Lawrence schools. I was talking about all the schools I taught in. How about a high school designed for 700 students that had 1400? My science classroom was only supposed to have twenty students; several times I had over thirty.

Not trying to whine (I no longer teach) but how was I supposed to give each student a microscope when I only had twenty electrical outputs at the lab stations?

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

"I wasn't just talking about Lawrence schools. I was talking about all the schools I taught in. How about a high school designed for 700 students that had 1400? My science classroom was only supposed to have twenty students; several times I had over thirty."

I hear ya. I just figured that since this was a Lawrence paper, the discussion was local. I taught in an inner city middle school long ago, and even when they bought the kids nice stuff, the kids just trashed it immediately. The had like $25,000 worth of new computers and the boys brought in magnets and ruined as many monitors as they could by the end of the semester. So money is not really the answer, even in the inner city. I honestly don't know how anybody can fix that cesspool. Even Jesus Christ himself would have his hands full. The point is that more money is NEVER the correct solution, but administrators LOVE they money...oh yes, they loves the money!

texburgh 6 years, 11 months ago

Why not set the $2.4 million aside to pay for repairs and later upgrades? This board has already begun talk on a new bond! Give it a rest. If you saved $2.4 million, you don't have to spend it. You can set it aside for the care of instructional facilities.

As for the LOB increase...why should anyone trust that the money will actually go to teacher salaries? I would consider voting yes only if the money was pre-negotiated with the teachers association and every dime dedicated to teacher salaries and health benefits.

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

"The teachers shouldn't receive any raises until they can prove they're doing their jobs."

The problem isn't that we should do this, it's how to do this. You can't just poll students & parents; that's unfair to the teacher. Test scores are more reflective of the group you happen to have than the teachers performance. Really what this would require is for administrators to be in there making assessments and knowing what teachers are doing. I taught HS for 8 years and didn't get evaluated by a supervisor once, which is typical. How to evaluate merrit pay is a huge problem. I'm in favor of it though.

Dacia McCabe Maher 6 years, 11 months ago

"Lawrence school board members on Monday night explored asking for a property tax increase that would generate an estimated $680,000..."

"Mary Loveland voiced frustration with the recent change in state law that now requires an election for school districts to increase their local option budget. Before, taxpayers would have to protest the increase to require an election. Loveland said seeking the extra LOB funds was probably "unavoidable" because of demands on the budget..."

Does it seem appropriate that the city commission is being asked to hand out tax subsidies to private developments right now? Are we in a position to relinquish tax revenues that would go to our schools? If we are heading for a city wide vote asking for an increase in our property taxes, then we have no business giving away significant revenue for the next 20+ years.

As some of you know, I have started a petition to deny the approval of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the Oread Inn project. NO TIF dependent projects should be approved until we have a clear policy in place. The formation of this policy should involve greater transparency and adequate public consultation.

Any individual or group who would like to sign the petition or offer support, please email me at ActUpLarry@gmail.com .

righthand 6 years, 11 months ago

Actually, look at the history there. The Dept. of Education is relatively NEW in our republic. The founding fathers did not include tax payer funded schools in their brilliant documents. It is a frightening thing when we have gone so far into the forest that we have forgotten how we got there in the first place. Are we SO dependent on govt. ed. that we are absent any new ideas? Scary.

craigers 6 years, 11 months ago

mamacita, when you don't offer large companies any incentives they won't come here to do business anyway, so you aren't really losing any tax revenue. What is your solution? Tell the different companies that want to come here that we don't want them bad enough and then just hope we can all afford the tax increases we will have to face?

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

Pulitzer Prize winning author David Cay Johnston has a new book about US tax law that exposes the lies behind TIF. Did you know that when a business gets a TIF, that we still pay sales tax to that business, but the all that sales tax goes into the pockets of the company to pay for the cost of business, and none of it goes into the public coffers. Plus they usually get an exemption from property tax to boot. So TIF if really a losing proposition for community developement. It's just a handout to big box stores and gazillionaires. Yet another way the system has been rigged to screw the middle class and cause money to cascade upwards to the super rich. BTW, most district administrators make enough money to payoff their FICA before the end of the year.

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says: "Why not ask permission to convert the 2.4 million to teacher salaries and expand on the VO-Tech classes???"

Because they are the government and they know best, they are doing it for the "childrens," they have never had to live within a budget, Lawrence taxpayers are easy marks and almost never say no, and it is all George W. Bush's fault anyway.

Any other questions?

Dacia McCabe Maher 6 years, 11 months ago

Craigers,

Sorry for any confusion. I'm not saying that I am opposed to offering incentives to companies in order to advance the city's economic development. I am saying that we need a plan. We need to make sure that there are policies in place that help us ensure the benefits to the community will outweigh the losses. If we start giving away tax subsidies without a thorough analysis, we could end up shooting ourselves in the foot. I believe that TIF and other subsidies can be a very valuable tool used to spur growth and enhance our quality of life in Lawrence. I have also found that TIF has been severely abused and inappropriately applied in some situations. Many cities and states (including KC, MO) are now rethinking the use of these subsidies and the bodies that oversee them. Let's make sure that if we decide to use them, that they are implemented in such a way that will greatly benefit our city.

aeroscout17 6 years, 11 months ago

Salad wrote: "The problem isn't that we should do this, it's how to do this. You can't just poll students & parents; that's unfair to the teacher. Test scores are more reflective of the group you happen to have than the teachers performance. Really what this would require is for administrators to be in there making assessments and knowing what teachers are doing. I taught HS for 8 years and didn't get evaluated by a supervisor once, which is typical. How to evaluate merrit pay is a huge problem. I'm in favor of it though."


I agree with you completely on this. Also having taught eight years before getting disgusted, I always thought that I would rather be on a merit pay basis. I worked hard, improved the student's knowledge while I saw other teachers showing educational movies (in history class) like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

To reiterate your statement, the merit pay must be based on achievement, not popularity. My students didn't always like me, but always did much better than the State average on standardized tests, as flawed as they were (are?) (and no, I never taught to the test). A major part of the reason I left teaching is I got tired of listening to parents telling me how perfect their kids were and they had never had a C, B- (whatever, fill in the blank). I would show the parents all the assignments the kids hadn't done but it made no difference to them; it was still "my fault."

I am now in a position where I do get raises on merit and happy about it.

salad 6 years, 11 months ago

"A major part of the reason I left teaching is I got tired of listening to parents telling me how perfect their kids were and they had never had a C, B- (whatever, fill in the blank). I would show the parents all the assignments the kids hadn't done but it made no difference to them; it was still "my fault.""

Wow, this is also one of the reasons I left! I seriously had the same thing happen! Grade inflation is rampant; it's all parents care about. I knew SO many math teachers who just got tired of fighting the battle and just made things "easy" for the kids. This is why almost no highschool kids want to go into science & engineering: it's hard and you can't fake it. I can tell you for sure: engineering is a vastly better profession than teaching. : )

Wilbur_Nether 6 years, 11 months ago

merrill wondered "Why not ask permission to convert the 2.4 million to teacher salaries and expand on the VO-Tech classes???"

In part because that obligates the District to those expenditures, even after the $2.4mil is gone. Unless you're willing to go the the teachers and students and tell them "we ran through our surplus, so we're going to cancel the expanded classes and cut teachers' salaries to accomodate."

kugrad 6 years, 11 months ago

Cutting sports would not be a smart fiscal move. Check into the details, the major sports actually generate income. Sports are also good for children, which is what this is all about.

Now, as one who would potentially benefit from this tax increase in the form of a raise, let me say that I am opposed to it. Property owners have borne more than their fair share of financing school improvment lately. Property owners have just faced large increases over the last 3 or 4 years. The goal is worthwhile, but property tax increases is not the way to get there.
I will point out that the district's hands are tied on this matter - they can't choose to tax in another way as the city can (and does). They are bound by state law to property taxes. That needs to change. Everyone's kids attend school and everyone needs to pony up. Schools benefit everyone, even grouchy school-haters.
Still, the district has recently gotten a large tax increase. As teachers, we have seen our salaries improve in recent years. Time to hold steady for awhile and look for more creative forms of financing. I know that the budget is not loaded with a ton of fat as those with zero knowledge of the district's finances like to assume, but there are nice to's and have to's. If we need mental health workers, and we do, then we have to ditch some nice to's to pay for it. The district can't keep going back to the well.

labman 6 years, 11 months ago

This district is a joke. Why would any teacher want to work for Weseman and Passman? They have no respect for the teachers or the community. The district talks about mandatory bullying education--maybe Passman should sit in on that class. They are the biggest bullies. They bully their teachers and the public. Too bad they are not elected. Why don't they do us all a favor a leave!!!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

" Anonymous user

Wilbur_Nether (Anonymous) says:

"merrill wondered "Why not ask permission to convert the 2.4 million to teacher salaries and expand on the VO-Tech classes???"

In part because that obligates the District to those expenditures, even after the $2.4mil is gone. Unless you're willing to go the the teachers and students and tell them "we ran through our surplus, so we're going to cancel the expanded classes and cut teachers' salaries to accomodate."

Everything that is mentioned will add to the cost of the budget in future years. So I say teachers and classes provide the better bang for the buck.

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