School budget crunch
Lawrence schools Superintendent Randy Weseman said Wednesday that it would take a 2-mill increase to maintain existing services for next year.
But he has asked staff members to prepare scenarios to tighten budgets that don't directly affect classroom instruction because school board members have indicated they want anywhere from a flat mill levy to a 0.8 mill increase.
"There's no doubt in my mind it's not a 2-mill discussion. It's how much under a mill can you bring it down and still produce these services," Weseman said.
The budget process is being complicated this year by rising energy costs and flat property valuations. District staff members are gathering information, and board members will get a budget presentation at their 7 p.m. July 21 meeting.
"Our intent is to stay flat if we can," board member Linda Robinson said.
Currently, no personnel cuts are being considered.
A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
The economic situation has also made board members and administrators shy away from wanting to increase enrollment and bus fees and to try to minimize a property tax increase.
"People are out there trying to make their own budgets work; we recognize we need to do the same thing," Weseman said.
Administrators expect the district to get about $1.8 million in new unrestricted state funding, which includes about $680,000 voters narrowly approved in the April local-option budget election.
The district also has to settle contract negotiations with teachers, and a mediator will be brought in later this month because the sides are $1 million apart on raises for next year.
The budget challenge could also get steeper midyear, especially if diesel fuel prices continue to rise, Weseman said. The area's flat real estate valuations also complicate the process.
"That's kind of a double-witching effect, so that makes it more difficult. It doesn't make it undoable," he said, "but it makes it more difficult."