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Archive for Sunday, July 4, 2010

Reasonable rise

Some property tax increase may be justified for local schools, but an additional 5 or 6 mills is too much.

July 4, 2010

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If school district officials were just trying to scare local taxpayers with a preliminary proposal to increase the district’s property tax levy by 5 to 6 mills, they accomplished their goal.

Now, they and school board members should go to work on a proposal that’s a little more reasonable in the current economic climate.

District officials are pointing to reductions in property valuations as the culprit for higher tax levies, but that may be only a small portion of the problem. County officials haven’t completed their valuation calculations for the school district, but the county’s overall valuation actually is up slightly, by less than 0.5 percent.

The district budget calculated with a 1 percent decrease in property valuation calls for a 5.3-mill tax increase. That includes a 2.3-mill increase for the local option budget. The district has the authority to levy a LOB tax that is equal to 31 percent of its general fund. The combination of lower valuation and a higher general fund budget makes it necessary to add 2.3 mills to maintain the 31 percent level.

Most taxpayers probably can support that increase because that money goes straight into the fund that pays teachers and supports school programs. It’s the same fund that was so decimated by state funding cuts this year.

Increases of 2 mills for the district’s capital outlay fund and 0.9 of a mill in the district bond and interest fund are a little harder to stomach. The increase in the bond and interest fund is needed to cover payments on the 2005 bond issue that funded secondary school and technology improvements.

Money from that bond issue had been left unspent until the school board decided last year to use it to build new football stadiums and playing fields at the two high schools. If the leftover money hadn’t been spent on the fields, could it, or at least the interest it earned, have been used to cover the bond payments?

Additional money for the athletic projects also came from the capital outlay fund. If school officials now say they need 2 additional mills to shore up the capital outlay fund, taxpayers have reason to wonder about the money that was spent on the athletic fields. At the very least, that money was diverted from other needed capital projects in the district, projects that might have been more important than amenities at the athletic fields.

The district has the authority to levy up to 8 mills for its capital outlay fund. The budget requiring a 5.3-mill increase uses the entire 8 mills, but board members already are saying they may modify that figure, perhaps to be more in line with the 6 mills that were levied for the current school year.

The city’s preliminary budget called for no property tax increase, but the city has other ways of raising money — sales tax, utility fees, etc. Property tax is the only way the school district can increase its revenue. Given the funding cuts inflicted by the state this year, some additional local support for the school district is justified.

However, board members should do what they can to minimize the increase. Shoring up the general fund is the top priority. Covering payments on the bond issue is necessary. Some capital outlay projects may have to wait.

Comments

jafs 4 years, 5 months ago

Finally, a Dolph editorial I can agree with!

tir 4 years, 5 months ago

They went too far and lost my goodwill when they built those extravagant athletic fields. I might support an increase supporting teachers and school programs, but that's it. I realize that we don't get to vote on how much they choose to gouge us in property taxes, but the next time there is a bond issue, it had better be for something necessary, or I'm voting NO.

George Lippencott 4 years, 5 months ago

The word might be arrogance. We will do it because we can!

mr_right_wing 4 years, 5 months ago

I say again, Washington, Topeka, County Courthouse, City Hall...

TURNIPS!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

This mil levy money will do USD 497 academics no good. It cannot be used for such substantial matters. Teachers cannot access this money.

USD 497 spent $1.73 million on prime development ground. Why is USD 497 purchasing prime development property?

John McGrew wants some of this USD 497 property for his $25 million field house in close proximity to a new housing development. I say forget it. This plan is a tax increaser for you and me.

With USD 497 managing the money I say all new tax increases and large spending need to be approved by WE the taxpayer.

The new sports extravaganza has yet to quit spending money. USD 497 apparently has no clue when the spending will stop = a major tax increase. AND this fiasco expands the operations budget = another tax increase. How many tax increases will be associated with this tax dollar monster?

ON WHAT EXACTLY will the mill levy increase be spent?

fancy80 4 years, 5 months ago

I realize today's students are tomorrow's leaders, so I'm not opposed to raising property taxes for funding the schools, but they lost me with the sports facilities for each of the high schools. They could have built one that both high schools shared and saved a butt load of money. Maybe they could sell the 7 million dollar building on McDonald that houses the superindent's office. Let's look for some other cuts, then we can talk about raising property taxes. Of course, there is another solution to this issue.....make it mandatory for all Lawrence residents to buy a house, or pay a penalty. Somewhat like the mandatory health insurance Obamacare is making us have. That way the cost is spread over all Lawrence residents and not just the people that own property.

grammaddy 4 years, 5 months ago

Believe me, if property taxes are raised, the renters will feel it too. Landlords will raise rents to cover the increase, and will make even bigger profits since most own more than one rental.

fancy80 4 years, 5 months ago

possibly, but from what I hear, it's harder and harder to keep houses rented in Lawrence. And that's before they have to raise the rents to keep up with property taxes. The housing market in Lawrence has a ton of empty houses right now. Between sales tax, gasoline prices, inflation, property taxes, it's harder and harder to make ends meet. I have to do away with things I can't afford. I don't have the luxury of telling my employer, they have to give me more money. I'm pretty sure I would be laughed right out of the office. But we're all in the same boat, and I know we all just have to tighten our belts and get through this. I just don't know how much more the average person can take.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

"Maybe they could sell the 7 million dollar building on McDonald that houses the superindent's office?"

Absolutely.

Put that group on the virtual school building and East Heights!!!

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