The Lawrence school district won’t be increasing its property-tax rate for the coming school year, even as the Lawrence school board plans to restore a handful of jobs, duties and services that had been cut in recent years because of declining government contributions.
And pay raises for teachers and other district personnel remain in the works.
Board members moved forward Monday night with plans for a $138.5 million budget for 2011-12, which would be up $18.8 million, or nearly 16 percent, from the $119.7 million in place for the past year.
But district officials cautioned that the total could be deceiving. The district likely won’t spend that much during the coming 12 months, Superintendent Rick Doll said, and instead is “estimating high” on the revenue side so that the district could spend the money if necessary or should it materialize.
Even with the projected increase in spending — renovation and maintenance projects would get $13.75 million for next year, up from $7.2 million during the past year — the district’s overall property-tax rate would be 59.445 mills, down 0.201 mill, or about one-third of 1 percent.
With each mill equal to $1 of tax for every $1,000 in a property’s valuation, the owner of a $150,000 home could expect to pay $979.43 next year in property taxes — enough to save $3.47, or about 29 cents a month.
“It’s a move in the right direction, for sure,” said Randy Masten, who joined five other board members — Mark Bradford, board president, was absent — in endorsing the tax rate. “We’re making the best out of a rather fluid and chaotic situation.”
The district’s proposed budget reflects a $3 million reduction in base state aid, as mandated in Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget and approved by the Kansas Legislature. The district’s proposed budget also includes spending $3.1 million from a savings account that the district had built up during the past several years and had expected to spend down by that amount during the next four.
But state law mandates that the $3.1 million be spent by the end of June, spurring board members Monday night to approve a flurry of budget additions — restorations, really — that include:
• $72,483 to restore a full-time reading/math interventionist at Kennedy School and a half-time parent-involvement facilitator at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School.
• $105,000 to extend programs for at-risk students.
• $40,943 to an assistant principal job at each of two middle schools — Liberty Memorial Central and West — to full-time status.
• $108,966 to bolster special-education staffing, where needed.
• $9,376 to restore four additional duty days for each counselor at Free State and Lawrence high schools.
“This certainly doesn’t reinstate everything that has ever been cut in the district,” said Kim Bodensteiner, the district’s chief academic officer. “But these are higher-priority items.”
Also up on the list, but yet to be approved: $1,250 in pay raises — $250 to base salaries plus $1,000 in one-time payments — to each of the district’s 926 licensed educators, as proposed by district negotiators as they work with the Lawrence Education Association on a new master agreement for 2011-12. That would cost the district $1.16 million for the year.
Other raises are in the works, but not yet proposed, for district employees who are not covered by the master agreement.
No timeline has been set to approve a new master agreement, although negotiators plan to meet again Thursday.
Board members have scheduled a formal public hearing to review the proposed district budget at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at district headquarters, 100 McDonald Drive, with formal approval of the budget to follow during their regular meeting later that evening.