Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2008

Raises at stake in LOB election

March 30, 2008


Lawrence school board members say if voters give them authority to raise an extra $679,000 in Tuesday's election, it won't be enough to close the district's teacher-salary gap with area districts.

But they are asking for the extra money because it is their only avenue to bring more funds to the table as they plan the 2008-2009 budget and negotiate raises for teachers and other staffers.

"We have to play the game," said Linda Robinson, school board president. "This is the situation and the plan that (the Legislature) established. We have to participate in this plan, or I don't think we would be doing our prudent responsibility as elected officials."

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, polls will be open as district patrons decide whether the school board can increase its local-option budget by 1 percent. If the election is successful, board members say, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $13.80 additional each year in property taxes - or $1.15 a month.

Local residents opposed to the LOB increase have said the election is poorly timed, considering the economy's situation, and they fear, in particular, that senior citizens who live on fixed incomes will be hit hardest by a property tax increase.

"We are not opposed to increased teacher salaries, but better sources of revenue need to be used," said Craig Sundell, president of Kansans for Common Sense and Accountability.


Administrators expect that if the LOB increase passes, board members will have $1.7 million to $1.8 million in new unrestricted funding to spend on salaries and, possibly, to help aid other programs. Among those programs is WRAP, which places Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center clinical social workers in some schools.

District officials say it's difficult to determine the exact financial impact a successful election would have on staffers.

Simply dividing the $1.8 million by the 1,750 district employees averages to $1,028 per employee, or about $85 extra per month before taxes. Without the LOB increase, district officials say they would have only $1 million to $1.1 million in state funds to use for staff salary increases.

But the process for figuring raises doesn't work that way. First, the school board negotiates a contract with the Lawrence Education Association, which represents the teachers.

Teachers are paid according to a salary schedule that includes their years in the district and the degrees they hold. Each year, the two sides negotiate how much extra money to add into that pool of funds to be distributed.

Last year, they settled on a 3.28 percent increase by adding $1.2 million to the schedule. The board waits to decide on raises for classified staff and administrators until settling with the teachers.

Last year, board members also gave a 3.28 percent raise to the classified and administrative pools. The board gave Superintendent Randy Weseman a 3 percent raise.

The LEA has supported the LOB increase, and LEA President Adela Solis, a Cordley School teacher, has said the district needs to improve teacher salaries because even with last year's increase, the district dropped in statewide rankings, according to Kansas National Education Association data.

"Everything that we can put in that pool for salaries will help," Solis said.

Robinson said that based on population and tax base, Lawrence likely won't compete dollar-for-dollar with Johnson County districts.

"You can at least be within a competitive range," she said.

Future budgets

Robinson also said not getting the LOB increase would mean board members would likely have to start cutting programs to fund raises.

They expect they could be forced to do some of that next year because under a legislative plan, Lawrence would get about $500,000 more in unrestricted funds in state aid.

The district is people-intensive; 83 percent of its general fund and LOB pays for salaries and benefits.

"The lion's share of any new money we get always goes to salaries," Robinson said.

But it's also an unusual situation to ask voters for the authority to raise money without those voters knowing specifically how the funds will be spent.

The Kansas Legislature recently changed school finance law requiring local districts to have an election to increase their local-option budget. Before, the board could increase the LOB to a certain point without a public vote, as long as no protest petition was filed.

The state limits school districts' budgets, and also does not allow them to spend capital outlay or bond and interest funds on salaries.

"It's unfortunate that property tax is the only vehicle available to us," Solis said.

Weseman has said that even if the election is successful, staff members likely would see a pay increase of no more than 3 percent.

Robinson predicted districts across the state would struggle with budget issues again next year because of cost increases.

"(The LOB increase) doesn't seem like a lot, and it seems like a peculiar thing to do. It's basically just buying a little time to hedge your bets against the inevitable," she said.


deskboy04 10 years, 1 month ago

I think that teachers should be paid as much as the person in the central office that orders the little smokies.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 1 month ago

Taxpayers need to consider how many times have they have voted to increase their tax bills by small increments over the last 20 years to realize the real number.

Also the school board could vote to spend $2.6 million in excess construction funds to make buildings more energy efficient to further reduce operation overhead. Put this matter on the ballot as well. Taxpayers want the opportunity.

City and county commissioners need to stop building more bedrooms thus increasing the budget of USD 497. There is no way to sustain this type of growth without increasing taxes. City and County government is the big problem.

Not only that increasing the number of bedrooms in a slow and flooded market is decreasing the value of homes in Lawrence,Kansas. What's up with that?

LogicMan 10 years, 1 month ago

"(The LOB increase) doesn't seem like a lot, and it seems like a peculiar thing to do."

Yes, it does. And as previously mentioned, it is compounding on top of previous increases.

Please get out Tuesday and vote NO, and have all your friends and family vote no to this badly timed tax increase. It matters!

When the economy recovers, we can revisit this issue. Until then, the board needs to trim things like administrative costs and unnecessary travel.

aginglady 10 years, 1 month ago

see this:

I am almost out of ink, with no hopes of buying more for months. But I printed this article to tape to my door, to make sure I remembered to go VOTE NO.

deskboy..I hope Drew sees your comment..good one.You deserve points. Good ol artery clogging smokies.

monkeyhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

The school board has to "play the game", and obviously that is disgusting to them. They think they should be able to suck the property owners dry anytime they have what they perceive to be a need. They don't want to leave a penny on the table if they can take it from your pocket. They need to take a lesson of their own from the mayor of KC. The school budget should be slashed first, then the voter might see how the board is acting in "good faith".

Vote NO.

texburgh 10 years, 1 month ago

"Weseman has said that even if the election is successful, staff members likely would see a pay increase of no more than 3 percent."

So, 1.2 million dollars buys a 3.28% raise for everyone (3% for Weseman). Then the roughly $700,000 would provide everyone a raise in the neighborhood of 4.8 to 5% (I'm not a mathematician but the increase is about half of the $1.2 million so add a bit more than half of the 3.28%.)

But if all the new money was spent on making TEACHER salaries more competitive, could we expect TEACHER salaries to increase 6%? 7%?

Why won't Weseman or the Board members tell us what they will do with the money? They tell us that they need more money to be more competitive for teachers but they always stop short of saying that they will put ALL of the money into TEACHER salaries.

It is the teacher that makes a difference for our children - not the central office administration, not Weseman. It's time to freeze their salaries and pump every additional dime into TEACHER salaries.

I'll make up my mind on Tuesday but I have to say I'm leaning toward NO because Weseman and the Board won't say where the money will go.

Yabut 10 years, 1 month ago

First, past articles and LTE's on this topic have people saying "everyone deserves a raise". NO, not everyone deserves a raise! People who do an average job should be rewarded with getting to keep their job. Those who go above and beyond deserve a raise. And this does not apply to just the school district, it applies to city, county, state and federal government too.

Second, there are many people here who will be going without a raise next year. Yes, it would be nice to give raises to those who deserve it (see definition above), but the school district must realize that our economy is tanking and we are in a recession. People are already cutting out unneccesary luxuries, limiting driving, and in some cases, scrimping and scraping just to afford food, and rent/mortgage. GET A CLUE, SCHOOL DISTRICT! Never bite the hand that feeds you. This is a bad time for everyone, and your asking for more seems shallow, and will be remembered next time you ask for another handout.

volunteer 10 years, 1 month ago

Apparently this measure would add money to the big pot, not be targeted just for teacher salaries.

The 5-2 Board vote indicates to me that the money is not urgently needed. Like the two dissenters, I vote no.

Centerville 10 years, 1 month ago

I think all the Lawrence taxpayers deserve a break, so will vote NO.

toefungus 10 years, 1 month ago

Simply vote no. The school board likes Tiffs, trips, talk, and our money, but they do not like to make decisions that keeps costs down so more money is available for salaries. As long as taxpayers keep saying yes, the board has no incentive to do a good job of management.

Godot 10 years, 1 month ago

The Lawrence folk I talked with this afternoon did not even know there will be a vote on the property tax increase on Tuesday.

Tell every person you see between now and 6:50pm on Tuesday to go to the poll and tell USD 497 to put its priorities in proper perspective - vote NO.

Raider 10 years, 1 month ago

"Robinson also said not getting the LOB increase would mean board members would likely have to start cutting programs to fund raises."

So be it. When you have a budget crunch, you cut other areas to live within your means. Deal with it!!!!

Vote NO!!!!!

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