School district proposes cut in property tax rate

The Lawrence school district has proposed a budget that includes a decrease in the local school district property tax rate.

Under the preliminary proposal that will be before the school board on Monday, the rate would decrease by 1.591 mills, from 57.788 mills to 56.197 mills, Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll said.

That would mean $1,292 in property tax for the owner of a home valued at $200,000, which would be $37 less than this year’s tax rate. Taxes are assessed on 11.5 percent of a home’s assessed value.

Much of a school district’s budget and tax rates are driven by formulas set out in state law that deal with student enrollment, poverty rates and the wealth of the district.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved and Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law legislation meant to increase funding to poor districts in response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The state also approved a $14 per student increase in base state aid.

But Doll said on Thursday that Lawrence schools are still suffering from cuts in base state aid over the past several years.

“We are operating basically at about 1999 school funding levels,” Doll said. Still, he said, the school district is at the maximum level of its ability to levy taxes under state law.

“We are maxed out on the amount of money we can generate,” he said.

On Monday, the board will vote to publish a notice that will outline the amounts that the district expects to spend out of various funds and the estimated property tax mill levy to raise that money.

The school board will hold a hearing on the budget Aug. 11. After the hearing, the board will vote on whether to approve the plan.

The budget plan also includes a 2 percent average pay raise.

In other business, the Lawrence school board will consider:

— Whether to approve a bid for $6.2 million to Nabholz Construction Services for building the College and Career Center at 31st Street and Haskell. The center will offer career and technical education programs for high school students.

— Whether to support a tax incentive request for a proposed $75 million apartment/retail development near Kansas University. City commissioners have already approved an 85 percent, 10-year tax rebate for the project at 1101-1115 Indiana St. The tax rebate would have a minimal impact on the school district, officials said.