The Lawrence school district recently received a financial surprise.
The district dutifully had been contributing to a contingency fund — think of it as a savings account — in hopes of softening the impact of future state cuts in school aid. Local school officials had built up a stack of dollars — about six million of them.
Now, however, the district’s been reminded by the state that there was a limit to how long they could hold onto at least some of that money. Facing a deadline to pare that savings account, school officials must find ways to spend $3 million during the next 12 months.
It wouldn’t be prudent for the money to be used to finance ongoing costs. So, for example, it wouldn’t make sense to devote the money to raises.
There are, however, lots of good ideas being suggested. Give teachers a one-time bonus. Purchase large volumes of supplies, from canned tomatoes to copy paper. Rehire staffers for a year who had been laid off. Buy textbooks, computers, upgrade equipment. And catch up on some deferred building maintenance.
Maybe the district could add one more item to that list for consideration: property tax relief. After all, it’s taxpayers’ money that is in that contingency fund, and there’s no doubt that many property taxpayers in the Lawrence school district are suffering themselves, from job cuts, salary cuts and higher prices. It would be only a temporary cut, but that’s OK.
So as school board members and district administrators ponder how to spend their nest egg during the next year, giving taxpayers a little break would be at least worth considering.