Archive for Saturday, January 26, 2008

School board may request election

$680K could be raised by increasing local option budget

January 26, 2008


Signs point to an election probably in April for Lawrence school district voters to decide whether to give board members an extra $680,000 to spend.

"I don't like the idea of raising taxes. I pay them, too," school board member John Mitchell said. "But the way state finance for public education works, there's just really very little that our district can do other than to look at that option seriously."

In individual interviews this week, five board members said they supported asking voters to approve a property tax increase that allows them to increase the district's local option budget to the 31 percent cap allowed under state law.

The board is expected to discuss its options and vote during its 7 p.m. meeting Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Supporters have mentioned the money could help fund raises for teacher salaries and for mental health services.

School board president Linda Robinson said based on current enrollment figures and property valuations, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an extra $1.15 per month in property taxes. That's about $14 per year.

Board members Robinson, Mitchell, Marlene Merrill, Rich Minder and Craig Grant indicated in interviews this week they were leaning toward asking for the election. A likely date for an election would be April 1.

"Unfortunately, we can't wait until the Legislature acts (on school funding) sometime in late May or early June before we consider this. We need to be proactive," Minder said.

But because no regular county election is scheduled until August, the district would have to pay about $45,000 for the election itself. The district already has $20,000 budgeted for elections, and the rest would come from a reserve fund.

"I don't see any other way to do it," Merrill said.

By law, school districts can levy property taxes to supplement the money they receive from the state. This is called the local option budget, or LOB. Districts now can raise their LOB up to 31 percent of their state general fund, and currently Lawrence's LOB is at 30 percent.

A recent change in state law requires voter approval to increase the LOB by 1 percent. The state also mandates how certain funding streams can be spent, such as on buildings or for specific classroom instruction.

Board members this week most frequently mentioned the LOB increase could support salaries to compete with Johnson County area districts. They also mentioned helping fund some version of the WRAP program with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. It puts social workers in schools and has had funding woes since grants ran out.

The board also has to consider millions of dollars in other requests, such as for new high school band uniforms and for giving elementary teachers more planning time.

Board members Mary Loveland and Scott Morgan said they need more information before deciding whether to support the election.

"We just can't simply ask for more money because we want more money," Morgan said. "We have to articulate what we would do with it or what we couldn't do without it."

Other board members acknowledged they would have to lobby voters for support and include a list of priorities.

- 6News reporter Lindsey Slater contributed to this report.


KS 10 years ago

What a freaking joke. These folks have a lot of nerve. The first thing they tell you is that they want to raise teachers salaries, but you wait, the money will not be used for that. What happend to the hundreds of thousands of dollars they had left over? They are playing this town for the villiage idiots. I guess we deserve what we vote for?

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

I say wait until August and save $45,000. That is too much money to waste on an election. Not a good bang for the school tax dollar. If voters do not approve the request then that $45,000 is truly wasted.

busymom 10 years ago

45,000 spent to receive 680,000. Sure 680,000 is a lot of money, but so is 45,000. Especially when they'd have to borrow against a "reserve" fund. My opinion is wait for the voting, it's a few months in the big scheme of things. And in those few months perhaps advertise and be truthful about what voters will be voting on so they show up to vote.

Jeff Barclay 10 years ago

Indeed, troublesome. I say tighten your belt. I guess the school board think most of us don't read or vote...

hawkfan24 10 years ago

Raise teachers salaries? Look at any job field compared to Johnson County and we are low, not just teachers, bad comparison. Why do the Junior highs have two gyms if the district still needs more money? They are not spending OUR money very wisely.Teachers need more time for planning, I thought that was why we had early release on Wednesday. I think teachers do a great, okay good job, but make them earn there money don't just hand it to them.Where did the Bond money go? It sure did't lower the tuition like I was told. Compare us to Eudora which pays next to nothing for school. WE pay for sports, band and we even have to pay extra for some classes in Junior High. Where does OUR money go?

monkeyhawk 10 years ago

Jan. 9

"To improve facilities, administrators are looking at what money was left from the $54 million 2005 bond issue; about $2 million to $3 million in the district's capital outlay budget; and a tool known as performance contracting, a way to pay for projects by using energy-efficient and environmentally friendly materials."

Jan. 16

"At their Monday night meeting, board members agreed to designate the remaining $2.4 million from the 2005 bond issue as a start to help improve practice fields at both schools."

jayhawklawrence 10 years ago

It's a bad time to ask for more money. Almost all the economic news right now is bad. Lawrence is especially hard hit right now with the slowdown in construction and real estate. Sounds like they are not in touch with the average person out here.

The real problem has been the Republican Conservatives who are doing as much trash talking as possible against Sebelius. I have listened to these guys and they hate all taxes, especially school taxes. If we need to raise teacher salaries we need to petition Topeka, not Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

$2.4 million could be put to far better use....say in the classroom and teaching salaries.

Paul R Getto 10 years ago

If we need to raise teacher salaries we need to petition Topeka, not Lawrence.

Good point. Pressure on local schools to raise LOB rates is due to a failure in Topeka to adequately fund the schools with state-level taxes.

OnlyTheOne 10 years ago

Hawkfan24 says, "Where does OUR money go?" And I reply - into buildings for the administration and administrators paychecks! Then get Loveland off the board - she's had her say too long. Remember the Loveland's bought a house for their daughter out west (south of 15th) so the daughter could attend Free State - but the house was south of 15th so she should have gone to Lawrence High. Guess where she went. Right Free State............ Too much power for too long.

monkeyhawk 10 years ago

When Bracciano was pitching the bonds in 2005, I don't remember a word about using the money to seed or improve practice fields. I wonder about the legality of taking the "$2.4 million remainder" to do with as they please. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

deskboy04 10 years ago

I think that they need to raise administrator salaries. They could also hire a few more administrators. How much does the Food Service Director make? It was over $72,000 three or four years ago.

deskboy04 9 years, 12 months ago

I'll bet that the food service director makes $80,000! That's a lot of money for ordering little smokies. But, of course, that position calls for someone to have a degree in dietary science. A degree is required to teach your child, but that's worth only half as much (maybe).

toefungus 10 years ago

There will be an organized effort to defeat this proposal this time.

been_there 10 years ago

After years working to get Loveland out, I couldn't believe she got back in. All I could figure was she got the newcomers in town to vote for her. And sometimes I really wish the newcomers, including city officials would listen to those of us that have lived in Lawrence for many, many, years and I don't mean 10 or 15. We've seen these "new ideas" tried out and fail. Former city manager Mike Wildgen was really bad about listening to long time residents whose opinions didn't agree with his own.

yankeelady 10 years ago

Maybe they are hoping a special election in April will bring out voters that are for the tax and everybody else will stay home. High turnout in August would not be good news for a tax increase.

been_there 10 years ago

Tried to create a link to the whole story about Mary Loveland and her daughter, but failed. At one time her husband listed his office as her address because it had a sleeping quarters there so she could go to Free State. I really wish I could find the letter to the editor she wrote telling everyone off. I believe at that time she then claimed they bought the second house because her daughter had zero hour and got stuck in the snow in the early morning. Like that never happens to other kids. I'm willing to bet the kid had a cell phone, if not, getting her one would have solved the problem.

LogicMan 10 years ago

"There will be an organized effort to defeat this proposal this time."

Count me in -- terrible timing for a tax increase.

If they go ahead with the special election, can we get a counter measure on the ballot to cut their budget by 5%?

Dacia McCabe Maher 10 years ago

I am all for giving money to our schools, so my problem is not with this tax increase. I DO have a problem with the Tax Increment Financing that the Oread Hotel and Condo project is asking for. They are asking for an $11 million dollar subsidy to fund 1/3 of their project. Call it a tax "incentive" if you like, but it is really a hidden tax on the people of Lawrence. Those of you complaining about the special election and budget increases, let's look at what the cc and the chamber want to give away FIRST. The more revenue given away by the city will only increase the burden on our school board to raise funds elsewhere.

To discuss the use of TIF in Lawrence, come to a meeting at the

Lawrence Public Library Saturday, Feb. 9th 10:00 a.m.-noon

texburgh 10 years ago

I'll vote yes when the $680,000 has been pre-negotiated with the teachers association. If every dime goes to teacher salaries and benefits, I'll vote yes - but without it being negotiated BEFORE the vote, I can't support it. I don't trust Randy Weseman one bit. I also expect that any new tax increase used for teacher salaries will increase teacher salaries in addition to any raise due to increased funding from Topeka. If this is voted in, I would EXPECT the board to give teachers a percentage raise equal to the percentage increase in state funding PLUS every dime of this new money. But with Weseman at the helm, Hades will likely freeze over first.

honestone 10 years ago

We cried when Mary came back. $$$$$ down the toilet I agree that if the money is committed to the teachers I might consider it but the way this district has handled our money for years...I doubt that it will occur.

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