Lawrence school district voters will go to the polls April 1 to decide if the school board can have an extra $680,000 to spend, likely on teacher salaries and mental health services.
"I believe our public wants to compensate our staff better than they're doing now, and if they believe this is the only way we can do that, I think they will support this," said Craig Grant, school board vice president.
Grant and four other board members voted Monday night to have the election to decide on authorizing about a half-mill increase or 1 percent increase in the district's local option budget, which is funded by property taxes. Scott Morgan and Mary Loveland cast the dissenting votes.
State law allows school districts to levy property taxes to supplement the money they receive from the state. This is called the local option budget, or LOB. Lawrence's LOB is currently at 30 percent of its state general fund, and 31 percent is the maximum allowed.
The extra money would be allowed to fund teacher salaries, unlike capital outlay or bond money, which is allocated by law for capital building and facility projects. Proponents have said the projected $680,000 was badly needed, especially to keep pace with Johnson County school districts.
"If we delay this another year, it's lost ground. It's lost employees," John Mitchell said.
They also have mentioned using money to fund the WRAP program, which puts Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center clinical social workers in schools. Several years worth of grant funding ran out, and the school district, city and county split funding it last year.
Linda Robinson, the board president, has said based on current 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.
Morgan and Loveland were troubled the district would have to pay about $45,000 just to have the special election coupled with the risk it would fail.
"I think it can happen. I have a lot of faith in this community, but I think it will be a difficult sale and you don't get much in return," Morgan said.
"I disagree that it won't pass. I am fully confident that it will pass," Rich Minder said.
Morgan also mentioned waiting a few more months and also opening lines of communication with the City Commission about if and when it may try to float a sales tax option for voters.
Minder eventually invited the City Commission to join the district and add a sales tax initiative to the April 1 ballot.
Before that, Marlene Merrill and Minder had mentioned the district's board and the City Commission had not talked enough about child and family issues in recent joint meetings.
And Grant and Loveland also talked about a lack of confidence in working with the city.
"I think we're going to have to go it on our own," Grant said.