Archive for Sunday, July 24, 2011

School board may not have to raise taxes

July 24, 2011


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.


ResQd 6 years, 9 months ago

I would agree since they have the contingency fund to spend within the next 12 months!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

USD 497 and most other districts cannot expect more money from the Brownback admin. In fact maybe less.

The Brownback goal is Charter/Privatization which should NOT be allowed without a state wide vote of approval = democracy in action. Neither concept can provide a better or less expensive education the hard evidence is simply not available. The cost for transition would be enormous. Private industry is in the business to make money not save money = wasted tax dollars.

Based on less money for the next 3 years USD 497:

  1. Think about saving $3 million annually on the school bus contract?

USD 497 budgets $4-4.5 million to bus students. The district is charged at a daily rate depending on how many students use the transportation.

Parents would you be willing to find other means to get your students to school IF it meant keeping all the schools open,teachers employed and retaining important subject matter/programs? Think car pooling,family members ,walking and biking.

USD 497 says it needs $3 million. Can WE come up with $3 million?

IF 75% of students were no longer on a school bus: 75% of $4,000,000 = $3,000,000 (million)

75% of $4,500,000 = $3,375,000

  1. Do not put up any bond issues for new school buildings

  2. Put that new 75 acres @ $23,000 per acre back on the market

  3. Think about selling the extravagant admin headquarters and moving into the Centennial Elementary School building.

KSManimal 6 years, 9 months ago

Busing is required for kids living beyond a certain distance from their school (2.5 miles, I believe). I also believe (though I'm less certain) that the bus contract is based on routes & miles, not number of students. The contract also has (I believe) provisions for adjustment based on fuel costs. Therefore, there is little choice for the district in terms of cost-cutting here.

However, just wait until the KS teaGOPpers decide busing is an extravagant luxury. Then we can make 'em all walk and "save" $4.5 million.

As for selling the admin building, how about converting it to an elementary school. We could alleviate crowding at our elementary's by doing that and moving the admin into scattered portables all over town.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

At a board meeting this past spring it was noted that the school bus cost was based on daily use per student.

I do not believe this contract was put out for bid.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 9 months ago

"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."

Let's stick with the plan.

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