Lawrence school district leaders don’t intend to boost property-tax rates to finance district operations and projects for the coming school year.
At least that’s the plan.
Monday night, Lawrence school board members are scheduled to set maximum levels for a package of property-tax rates to finance the district’s budget for 2011-12.
Going into the meeting, the district envisions a combined maximum levy of 60.4 mills, which would be an increase of 0.734 of a mill, or 1.3 percent, from the current rate.
With a mill equal to $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed valuation — and taking into account the state’s $20,000 homestead exemption — the owner of a $100,000 home in the district would be expected to pay $648.60 in property taxes for schools next year, which would be an increase of $8.67.
Board members caution that the proposed maximum rate is just that, a proposed maximum, and likely would be reduced during the next couple of weeks. Monday’s meeting is an opportunity for board members to establish the highest tax rate it could charge, while the budget’s formal public hearing — set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 — will give them an opportunity to bring the rate back down.
Again, that’s the plan.
“The last thing we want to do is raise taxes,” said Bob Byers, a board member preparing to approve his third annual budget for the district. “We got it.”
Monday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.
The bulk of the district’s tax rates produce revenues that board members have little or no control over. Nearly a third of the money would go directly to the state, for redistribution to districts according to a school finance formula; nearly 20 percent would go to pay off bonds and cover interest on major construction projects previously approved by voters.
While a third of the taxes would go toward the district’s local option budget — which is, as the name suggests, optional — district officials have no plans to cut those revenues, given the ongoing cuts in operational funds made at the state level.
That leaves one fund with room to maneuver: the district’s capital outlay fund, used to finance renovations and major repairs in schools, district buildings and other physical assets.
As proposed, the district’s fund would carry a maximum levy of 8 mills, or enough to generate about $6.4 million for the coming year.
Mark Bradford, board president, said the levy likely could be decreased to about 6 mills, where it’s been for each of the past two years.
“I think we can still maintain what we need for capital improvements by maintaining our current mill levy,” Bradford said. “We can pretty much stay just where it’s at.”
The district still has plenty of work to do, he said. A list of projects circulated last year outlined an estimated $8.8 million in needed renovations, equipment upgrades, roof replacements, parking lot repavings and other jobs.
Some of those projects are under contract now, but the list promises to continue expanding as buildings continue to age, said Tom Bracciano, the district’s division director for facilities and maintenance.
“There’s not enough money to do everything we need to do,” Bracciano said.
A volunteer working group is poised to start deliberations next month on recommendations for consolidating six elementary schools into either three or four within the next several years. The group’s work follows that from a volunteer task force, which in February outlined needed upgrades in district elementary schools.