Archive for Tuesday, June 29, 2010

School board considering tax increase

Lawrence school board members from left, Scott Morgan, Vanessa Sanburn, Marlene Merrill, Mary Loveland, Bob Byers, Mark Bradford and Rich Minder.

Lawrence school board members from left, Scott Morgan, Vanessa Sanburn, Marlene Merrill, Mary Loveland, Bob Byers, Mark Bradford and Rich Minder.

June 29, 2010


District administrators propose tax hike

School district administrators are proposing a property tax hike to help avoid further school cuts. The additional tax would be necessary because of lower property values. Enlarge video

Lawrence school district administrators Monday floated a scenario for a 5 mill property tax increase, saying projections of lower property values will hit the district with a “double whammy.”

Board members will debate where to set the district’s property tax level for 2010-2011 in coming weeks, and they could opt to levy less than the 5 mill increase.

Administrators said an estimated 1 percent decrease in property valuation due to the recession means a flat mill levy will raise less funds than the previous year.

“Unfortunately, that’s not something Lawrence has seen in a lot of years,” said Kathy Johnson, the district’s division director of finance. “These last few years have been difficult because the valuation has declined or been very flat.”

A mill is $1 in property tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

Johnson said projected valuation decreases are also coming at a bad time for another reason. The district is still using its bond and interest levy to pay off its 2005 bond issue that funded secondary school and technology improvements.

Typically the schedules for payments are made projecting valuation increases in future years.

According to Monday’s scenario, a 5.3 mill increase coupled with a 1 percent decline in valuation would increase property taxes by $91.82, to $1,044 a year, on a $150,000 home in the district.

But that scenario assumes board members opt for a 2 mill increase on the district’s capital outlay levy for building projects. President Scott Morgan said the board would likely see if it could adjust that “to modify the pain.”

Because of decreased state funding, board members already have made $4.6 million in cuts for next year.

“We’re treading in place, and we’re having to raise taxes,” Morgan said. “That’s not a great recipe.”


Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

The majority of USD 497 BOE and our local real estate industry represent reckless and expensive sprawl growth and tax increases!!! Folks we are being duped!

Why did the USD 497 buy expensive land for a school Lawrence may never need? Now the board wants money to build on that land is the real reason for the tax increase. Another reason is the cost to maintain the new sports facilities. This board is all too irresponsible and all too eager to hand out local big government tax dollars to subsidize sprawl growth. The majority of this group are NOT good money managers = fiscally reckless.

In order for the city to have orderly growth, developers need to be responsible for a certain amount of the infrastructure. Most builders understand that schools,parks,rec centers improve their development and make home building very profitable.

Developers need to be responsible for DONATING land and PAYING FOR the construction of all of these wonderful attributes. After all it is the builders creating the need. Lawrence tax payers DO NOT WANT higher tax bills.

Local taxpayers would be more than delighted NOT to pay for another school building or park or for more streets to maintain or for a field house that the real estate industry wants to sell more homes.

National surveys (through American Farmland Trust) show that county costs in services required by farmland and open space generally is only 35 to 60¢ for every $1.00 in revenues they generate, producing a net gain for counties. In contrast, residential use in counties costs $1.11 to $1.60 in services for every $1.00 generated = no economic growth.

Another school building, park and new housing does NOT represent economic growth quite the contrary. None of those pay back the local taxpayer. Residential use in counties costs $1.11 to $1.60 in services for every $1.00 generated = no economic growth.

Who controls the local Chamber of Commerce? Our local real estate industry. There are a number of people in Lawrence,Kansas who feel the Chamber of Commerce should be fired thereby no longer receiving $190,000 of OUR tax dollars.

Who controls the majority of the school board? Our local Chamber of Commerce who rails against taxes but loves spending OUR tax dollars. Folks we are being duped!

no_thanks 7 years, 9 months ago

Your local Chamber of Commerce is controlled by the real estate industry? Are you daft? Have you been throught the planning process here? Are you aware of the amount of time and the transactions costs incurred by developers, or for that matter, businesses interested in investing in Lawrence? If the local Chamber of Commerce was controlled by the real estate industry, and is as influential with policy as you repeatedly indicate, surely those issues would be resolved. The Chamber of Commerce is our sole voice on economic development, and Tom Kern and his staff are taking great strides to break down the reputation of Lawrence being "unfriendly to businesses". Frankly, it is due to our lack of success over the past 7 years in attracting new businesses/jobs as to why the City/County/School is forced to raise taxes. Merrill, you and the other no-growth members of the Progressive Lawrence Campaign should be celebrating as you have succeeded in restricting Lawrence's growth this decade. But, your time is up as our City's lack of growth has not made us a better place. It is time to reduce taxes, both sales and property, and cut government spending at all levels. I pray the Chamber of Commerce remains diligent to that end.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

The Chamber of Commerce is not the body responsible for setting regulations regarding business development in the city.

It is also not the sole voice on economic development.

The school district raised money recently for capital improvement, and had about $2-3 million left, which they spent on new athletic fields, not what I voted for when I voted in favor of the bond.

Growth is not the answer, especially if developers don't pay the full costs of new development.

And, it is clearly stated that lower property values are what's motivating this change, not any lack of growth.

Also, the current city commission is not the PLC, and has been in power for a while, giving out generous tax incentives to companies and buying new land, etc.

honestone 7 years, 9 months ago

"Johnson said projected valuation decreases are also coming at a bad time for another reason. The district is still using its bond and interest levy to pay off its 2005 bond issue that funded secondary school and technology improvements." Raise your hand if you DID NOT see this coming. I have a feeling that this was "the plan" the board projected and now they will hold school closure and program cuts hostrage due to thier miserable planning or ...the board really didn't see this coming and they are all amazed and stupified that they find themselves in this situation. Can anybody say...high school sports complex??

justforfun 7 years, 9 months ago

The numbers are always based on a $150000 house. What about the people who had forsight and planned for their future (unlike Morgan and the rest of the clowns) and invested in real estate??? 5% mill on a million is $5000. What a joke, everytime it's TAX TAX TAX. Screw that and screw you!

yankeevet 7 years, 9 months ago

lol......someday tell us how you really

Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 9 months ago

The increase for a million dollar home would be $612. That taxes on the house would now be $6960.

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 9 months ago

I didn't think they could raise the mill any more, aren't we at the state maximum?

inatux 7 years, 9 months ago

I think you're correct.

Can jkealing comment on this?

Douglas Garst 7 years, 9 months ago

The pictures of the Lawrence School Board should be posted in each United States Postal Offices with the caption:


Moderateguy 7 years, 9 months ago

And so continues the "death by a thousand cuts." Irresponsible spending with the last bond issue and their appetite continues unabated. Combine this with increased taxes at the city, county, state and federal levels and the economy must inevitably collapse. If they think their tax revenue is down now, just wait till a year from now. This flat spot on the roller coaster we're on isn't even close to the bottom. When property values drop another 25%, the school district will still be screwed. Cut spending now in today's dollars when you can still make a difference. Separate funds or not, the athletic fields projects are a complete black eye on the district and will not be forgotten by the voters.

Kristine Bailey 7 years, 9 months ago

The photo collage is horrible to look at 1st thing in the morning. I feel like I am being attacked by their faces. Please come up with a better format!

Kris_H 7 years, 9 months ago

I was just thinking the same thing about that picture. Don't have an opinion on the article, but that picture is too damn scary!

Danielle Brunin 7 years, 9 months ago

I hate that picture too, and they just keep using it over and over again. Blech!

yankeevet 7 years, 9 months ago

Getting expensive too live here and own a house anymore............

geekyhost 7 years, 9 months ago

Yes. That extra $2 a month will make home ownership impossible. Oh noez.

Kontum1972 7 years, 9 months ago

so why are all these people smiling? i like to be kissed b4 i am screwed really good... why dont we just have a vote on it...within the next couple of weeks...i just refinanced my kid graduated a couple of years those of us who have no kids in the public school system should be exempt....and i will say this again...what happened to all this lottery money and casinos that was suppose to take care of all this school issue infrastructure stuff...that was how it was sold too us....?

The democratic way is for a let us the vote on it.....

geekyhost 7 years, 9 months ago

Yes, you should be exempt, and you should give me a refund for the ten years I paid for your kids before I had mine. Why don't you make it about a 5 mil increase, and we'll call it even.

John Hamm 7 years, 9 months ago

Well folks, a lot of you voted for them or they wouldn't be there. What are you gonna do now? Some quotation about politics - "You get what you vote for." Time to wake up around here and elect honest politicians - they stay bought!

workinghard 7 years, 9 months ago

But they said they were honest. Believe me, I did not vote for Mary Loveland. If you idiots vote for her again, this will keep happening just like it did the first time she was on there. Stop voting for her, she has all sorts of money so tax increases don't bother her and she has no idea how to manage money because she doesn't have to in real life.

aa469285 7 years, 9 months ago

You lost me as soon as you said "she has all sorts of money...." typical low-class response. You have no idea about her financial situation. You probably only know that her husband is a doctor, and to you that means she's RICH. How pathetic. And for the record, I didn't vote for her either, but her financial situation had nothing to do with it. Why can't people like you stop punishing others who might be financially more successful than you? It just makes you sound jealous and petty.

workinghard 7 years, 9 months ago

She had enough money to buy her kid a house to live in while she was a senior in high school when the found out their new house was on the wrong side of the line. Before that she tried using her husband's office address to get the kid into Freestate. That is what bothers me.

kernal 7 years, 9 months ago

No, No and No! We are not paying for bad planning and lack of foresight.

There also needs to be some hard investigating on the sports complex for LHS.

Godot 7 years, 9 months ago

Absolutely no more money for capital outlay. This school board and administration have no control over expenditures, the waste and deception are beyond belief.

skinny 7 years, 9 months ago

No, but heck no!!!! It's not going to happen!! Make do with what you have like the rest of us have to do!!!

craigers 7 years, 9 months ago

And a property tax increase on the property owners of Lawrence could cause a lot more problems in the future for this school board. Are they going to continue to increase property tax as more people lose their homes?

phoggyjay 7 years, 9 months ago

Legalization of cannabis = More than enough money from taxes to go around

irvan moore 7 years, 9 months ago

I am proud to say I never voted for any of those people.

tir 7 years, 9 months ago

What lower property valuation? Mine went UP this year, despite the recession. The school district is already getting more from me than last year. I'm just saying...

chzypoof1 7 years, 9 months ago

I'm a little slow this morning, so someone help me out....did I read this wrong?

Also, can someone please explain why we dont' get to vote on this? It seems that the school board can just get more $$$ anytime they want. I'm confused....



Jeff Cuttell 7 years, 9 months ago

Why do we have to listen to people that look like (from left to right) The Dad on Alf, Ugly Betty, Julia Child, John Elway, Tyler Perry, a serial killer, and Danny Partridge?

LadyJ 7 years, 9 months ago

jajacut --LOL , the fourth one is Mary Loveland, but your right, she does look like him.

Danielle Brunin 7 years, 9 months ago

I laughed so hard I cried at this comment. Thanks for the laugh!

workinghard 7 years, 9 months ago

Looks like the city can forget about that wellness center and probably the library too.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 9 months ago

Some recent and proposed tax hikes to note:

A new sales tax hike takes effect this Thursday, July 1.

The city passed three sales tax hikes in November of 2008. Two of them further funded our bankrupt transit system, the infamous and unused emp-T.

The city wants you to pay for an $18 million library expansion.

The city wants you to pay for a new $25 million wellness center.

The city wants you to pay more for schools because it cannot manage its resources.

deskboy04 7 years, 9 months ago

It might be time to rethink that huge administration building they have.

jackson5 7 years, 9 months ago

At 5 mills (a reduction from current year 6 mills) the board still has a small surplus of $350k after all their budgeted items for next year without tapping into the $2M cap. outlay reserve.

By deferring the purchase of a new data warehouse by one year, the district can further reduce the budgeted items by $1.2M. That save us one mill and we are now down to 4 Mills.

If they slice just 10% off their estimates for other items (which surely sneaks in more athletic facility improvements), that saves .5mills and we are now down to 3.5 mills.

So with a bit of belt tightening and deferring one purchase, property taxes will be reduced by 2.5 mills next year (from 6 to 3.5), rather than increasing the mill levy from 6 to 8 mills as proposed.

I acknowledge that some of the items cannot be reduced like the $1.269M annual payments on the athletic fields that we have committed to for years and years. The school board bragged about finding this "creative solution" to financing the athletic fields but they don't mention that it added over one mill to our property taxes for years to come.

The proposed cap. outlay budget for next year can be found at page 6 of this document

Thinking_Out_Loud 7 years, 9 months ago

Two more options: By closing the doors on all the schools, they can further reduce their expenses to zero dollars, eliminating all need for any sort of mills whatsoever. Finally, by selling off their assets, textbooks, etc. they can actually provide a refund to the taxpayers of the District.

LadyJ 7 years, 9 months ago

May I remind the school district that seniors on Social Security have not recieved a cost of living raise in quite some time now. Where do you think they will get the money with all the utility rate raises? I know I haven't had a raise for a few years.

yellowdot99 7 years, 9 months ago

Thank you Lady J-- some of us seniors, probably more now than in the pass are still paying a mortgage on their homes. Everything has gone up except our Social Security checks, and going to the grocery store is a nightmare anymore.

citizen0123 7 years, 9 months ago

the SCHOOL BOARD raising taxes? whats next,SCHOOL BOARD bans guns?

Chris Ogle 7 years, 9 months ago


Like many others, I am being taxed out of town.

Salvia 7 years, 9 months ago

Evidently there is enough captial outlay money to replace all the windows at Centennial Virtual School - you know the one- the school they closed a few years ago to save $$. Hear a kitchen renovation is also planned. (Does anyone predict a concession area for baseball field?) Drive by and see for yourself!

workinghard 7 years, 9 months ago

A kitchen for a closed school? Virtual schools should serve virtual food only. Thanks for the information.

geekyhost 7 years, 9 months ago

The Lawrence JCCC campus is also there, and the school does offer some face-to-face services for virtual students with disabilities. Kitchen renovation may mean a room with a microwave, a vending machine, and a fridge for employees. That said, "I hear a kitchen renovation is planned" by some Interwebz stranger doesn't score high on the authoritative source meter.

Salvia 7 years, 9 months ago

I got my information from listening to a report from Tom Bracciano at a school board meeting.

absolutelyridiculous 7 years, 9 months ago

I'm moving. I can't downsize and I can't afford to live here anymore. Been nice knowing all of you. Enjoy the rapture.

any 7 years, 9 months ago

"According to Monday’s scenario, a 5.3 mill increase coupled with a 1 percent decline in valuation would increase property taxes by $91.82, to $1,044 a year, on a $150,000 home in the district."

I must be misunderstanding or something. Basically this is saying a house that is valued at $148,500 (a 1% decline in price of $150K) will see an increase of $92 a year and pay $1,044 a year under this scenario.

My house is valued at $144,500 according to the county and in 2009 I paid $1,929.36 for 2009. So my value is under the example used by the paper, but I'm already paying almost double what their example shows. Does this mean my taxes would basically be a double increase also ($184)?

What am I missing?

LadyJ 7 years, 9 months ago

Maybe they are talking about the portion that goes to the school district only, Jonathan?

jd 7 years, 9 months ago

And they don't even have the common courtesy to give us a reach-around!

George_Braziller 7 years, 9 months ago

"Typically the schedules for payments are made projecting valuation increases in future years."

Here's a novel idea the school board might want to consider in the future: base your spending on the realities of the moment rather than some theoretical future. When you write a budget you ALWAYS over-estimate expenses and under-estimate revenue. They must have all been absent for the entire semester of Budgeting 101.

gccs14r 7 years, 9 months ago

You're missing the split in the mill levy between the school board and regular government taxation. They're talking about just the school portion going up, but there's no guarantee that the county won't also increase the tax rate to make up for declining revenue.

workinghard 7 years, 9 months ago

Here is my thought on what they are doing. They release the statement saying it will be a 5 mill increase, getting everyone upset. Then they will actually set it at a lower number figuring everyone will be so happy it is less that they will be pacified and not complain because it could have been worse and feel the school board has actually done a good job. Don't fall for it, be outraged at any increase more than 1 mill.

workinghard 7 years, 9 months ago

By the time both the county and school district raise the taxes, the city will complain because sales tax revenue is down. People won't have money to spend because they have to pay higher property taxes.

whyeyeoughtta 7 years, 9 months ago


The pics of most of those people creep me out- almost mocking me in my relative helplessness, defying me to do anything about this matter other than whine.


svenway_park 7 years, 9 months ago

So the state legislature makes huge cuts to schools,counties and cities. And when those units are forced to raise taxes everyone gets their panties in a wad. What a joke.

Most of the people posting here never vote in school elections anyway.

Don't people realize this started with "free enterprise unregulated markets" including for the collateralized debt obligations and unregulated derivative markets that all the libertarian-free traders got us into. And they are now also some who complain the most loudly about any government spending.

no_thanks 7 years, 9 months ago

Don't you mean caused by the liberal agenda of using Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help everyone reach the American dream of homeownership? How were lower income people going to qualify for home's they can't afford? Simple. The fed will lower interest rates. Next, CDO and Mortgage Backed Securities are created to allowing lending institutions to pool assets of homes thus spreading out the risk. Third, lending institutions are encouraged (i.e. Community Reinvestment Act et al)to implement lending practices designed to accomodate those who have been priced out of the market under conventional mortgage terms. Next, appraisals somehow justify excessive real estate valuations which supports excessive loans to people who can't afford to make payments (due to loose lending practices). Which leads to the final nail in coffin which is excessive real estate speculation. Yes there was excessive risk taking by all parties, but don't just blame free markets. Blame government policy. And, blame human greed (people that took advantage of loose lending are equally culpable in knowing that they couldn't afford the homes they were buying). Our nation's lack of personal responsibility driven by government policy of your entitled is leading us much closer to socialism than capitalism.

inklines 7 years, 9 months ago

Vote all of them out of office or recall them for fiscal mismanagement. Change the law so all school tax increases must be approved by the voters. Vote for people that have shown sound, down to earth financial vision, wisdom, and discipline. If we (the tax payers) have to live within our means so should the school district.

Upstate 7 years, 9 months ago

Last night the school board voted to spend 350k capital outlay funds on laptop computers for the Virtual School. That brings the grand total for the year over $600,000 for LVS laptops out of capital outlay!

Lawrence taxpayers saw their property taxes increase by .5 mills so that these students could each have a free computer. Yet, LVS students pay no extra fees for these personal laptop computers.

sherlock 7 years, 9 months ago

Noted on checks paid for last two months for USD 497, pizza, several different listed- and barbq, for over $1500. Who enjoys the food? Does it feed the students or the help? Pizza parties after school? Are the taxpayers paying for lunch of adm? La Quinta motel and Inn: $2512.00 in May of 2010. Who stayed in a motel for what? Board members or ? Must have been a suite for that amount. Just quesitons regarding spent money.

LadyJ 7 years, 9 months ago

La Quinta? They should only be authorized for rates at say Super 8 and pay for upgrade to La Quinta themselves.

nascar 7 years, 9 months ago

I questioned the $2500 spent at LaQuinta on the Lawrence High School ledger as well.

Also interesting that a Technology Professional Development Specialist was hired....

Does anyone have the amount the Boys and Girls Club will be paying the district to lease the East Heights building? This was buried in the consent agenda.

CHKNLTL 7 years, 9 months ago

If the schools and library both need money, how about a partnership? The school could lease empty classrooms to the library for use as satellite offices. Like a bookmobile, but stationary. It could be helpful to get more clients for the library while bringing something for the kids at school. 5 mills is outrageous. So is $18 million. Not everybody can get to downtown during library hours, with this tight economy, some parents work more, so kids can't get a ride. The satellite offices could be used for the public to drop off and check out books, too. Definitely let's not keep raising taxes and turn towards Shawnee Heights type b.s. taxes.

jackson5 7 years, 9 months ago

It is time for the School District to have a finance advisory committee. Our peer districts, like Blue Valley, have had them for years.

The School Board has a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers. The board members are good people and are trying hard to educate themselves on mill levies, school finance, city building codes and other technical matters while trying to solve our severe drop-out problem. Bless their hearts for trying. However, we have a big problem when we have social workers and stay at home moms signing off on $10M in hybrid capital leases from Duetsche Bank and Capital one based upon powerpoint presentations and discussions that take place behind closed doors in executive sessions. The taxpayers deserve better than this. It is time for a finance advisory committee full of knowledgable citizens that can ask the right questions in an open and transparent public forum.

No offense intended to stay at home moms and social workers. They are some of the smartest, hardest working, and most undercompensated people I know.

sherlock 7 years, 9 months ago

How about a state audit for all schools in Kansas?

Kasha 7 years, 9 months ago

We no sooner adjust to yet another sales tax increase than here comes the School Board "floating a scenario for a 5 mil property tax increase" because their projections were wrong. Well, tough toenails! When are you and other "governing" commissions in Lawrence, Douglas County and the State going to learn how to live within your budgets! If we citizens expected any of you to come to our rescue because we can't pay OUR bills, you'd call us ridiculous. What you need to do is stop giving teachers a raise when they are NOT teaching our students. Universities are appalled at how uneducated these freshmen are, and parents are appalled at teachers wearing blue jeans/overalls and T-shirts to the classroom and students calling them by their first names. PULEEZE! Set an example, why don't you. The next thing Board members can do is decline raising their own inflataed salaries as well as those of principals and other administrators.
Right now, you should all be fired. Even Scott Morgan can barely put together an acceptable and correct sentence. Fine example of what our Schools of Education are churning out. Home Economics used to be the "cheap" degree. Now it seems to be a toss up between Education and Meteorology.

Kent Shrack 7 years, 9 months ago

Poor Spending. 1. Technology bond issue passed years ago was about $800 per student, K-12. I don’t know what the kindergartners got but I’m told most of the money was spent on dedicated fiber optic between the schools and the administration building. I work for a profitable company, but we can’t afford fiber optic. 2. The majority of the 59 million dollar bond issue passed at the same time was spent on school expansions, most of which were for gymnasiums, many of which were for second gymnasiums at many of our schools.
3. Free State initial cost was 21 million. It has 250,000 sf, about $84/sf. The Goddard high school constructed at the same time through competitive bid has 246,000 sf and cost 14 million. That is less than $57/sf. The construction quality of Free State does not measure up to that of Goddard. If I’m wrong in my facts or figures, please let me know.

melott 7 years, 9 months ago

Last bunch of people I would trust with more money. Vote no.

sherlock 7 years, 9 months ago

sorry, but there wont be a chance of VOTE. They can do this all on their own little voice of "yes." The state made the allowance to let districts raise the levy! Bad deal, yes,yes,yes, Put youre hats on ready for a vote in about 2 years to build another high school on their already owed property! Because when they move the 9th graders into highschool we will hear: Oh my we are too crowded now need another high school! Then people can vote NO-----that will be after they decide to close another elementary school on the east side of Lawrence because they just cant find the funds of course!

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