The Lawrence school board on Monday advanced both a district budget that includes a property tax decrease and a tax rebate for a proposed high-dollar apartment building aimed at housing Kansas University students.
On the budget, the board unanimously approved publishing a spending plan that includes a cut in the local school property tax of 1.591 mills. That would drop the levy from 57.788 mills to 56.197 mills.
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.
The proposed tax reduction comes at a time when the city of Lawrence is considering an increase of 1.479 mills and Douglas County commissioners approved an increase of nearly 4 mills.
But 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.
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.
On the apartment building, the board approved a tax rebate for a proposed $75 million, seven-story apartment/retail development across the street from KU's Memorial Stadium.
The board voted for an 85 percent, 10-year tax rebate for the project at 1101 and 1115 Indiana St. The Chicago-based development company originally sought a 95 percent, 12-year tax rebate.
"We're still not sure," if the project will work with the lower rebate, said Jim Heffernan, a principal with HERE, LLC. "We are doing our best to make that work," he said.
In arguing for the project, Heffernan implied that decreasing enrollment at KU was because students wanted more luxury-type apartments.
"The universities of the United States that are growing, they all have many examples of student housing like this," he said.
Earlier this month, the city commission approved the same rebate level on a 3-2 vote. The Douglas County Commission will consider the rebate issue on Wednesday.
Kristie Adair was the only 'no' vote on the school board, saying that the project wouldn't fulfill economic promises made by the developers, but simply pull development and sales from other businesses in the neighborhood.
"We're just stealing from one area to give to another, and I'm concerned about subsidizing something like that," Adair said.
School Board President Shannon Kimball said because of the way school district taxes are controlled by state laws, the rebate will have no negative impact on revenues to the district.
The proposed building would include 237 upscale apartment units and about 13,000 square feet of retail space in a multistory building and would include the state's first automated parking garage, which would use lifts and tracks to park cars without the assistance of motorists.
Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard told the school board that the project will be a plus on the property tax rolls because it is replacing rundown properties. "Something of this magnitude doesn't happen very frequently," she said.
In other business, the board approved:
— A "guaranteed maximum price" contract to Nabholz Construction Services of $6.2 million in bonds for construction of the College and Career Center at 31st Street and Haskell Avenue. The 30,000-square-foot center will offer career and technical education programs for high school students. Last year, the school district selected two construction management firms — Nabholz and McCownGordon Construction — to oversee construction of projects funded by the $92.5 million school bond issue that was approved by voters. The maximum price contract means the project cannot go over that amount.
— A 10-year, 85 percent rebate for the rehabilitation of three historic structures and redeveloping the property at 1106 Rhode Island St. for office and rental-residential space.