Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

School board to discuss budget at Monday meeting; details of plan won’t be released beforehand

Lawrence USD 497 school board

Lawrence USD 497 school board

August 7, 2017

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The Lawrence school board will hold a special meeting Monday to discuss the district’s proposed 2017-2018 budget and its publication.

The board originally planned to approve the budget for publication last month, but was delayed after state budget forms failed to arrive on time, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said in an email. Boyle noted that budget processes in school districts across the state have been delayed by the Legislature’s later-than-usual approval of its school finance plan.

Because of those time constraints, she said, the district isn’t releasing a fleshed-out budget before Monday’s meeting. The school board, however, already approved some aspects of the budget earlier this summer, including allocations toward staff hires, professional development and technology systems in preparation for the upcoming school year.

An outline of addition and reductions in the 2017-2018 budget plan includes the hiring of two elementary teachers and two secondary teachers on contingency, plus the reduction of roughly a dozen full-time equivalent positions. District leaders have attributed these reductions, which did not call for any layoffs, to causes such as natural attrition, enrollment changes and teacher-to-student ratios.

The cuts will save the district approximately $815,000. At that same meeting in early July, board members also voted to approve the allocation of $248,000 toward the implementation of recommendations following a classified market survey. That number could include pay raises for the district’s classified staff, though specific information about which positions might receive raises wasn’t available at the time.

Also unknown going into Monday’s meeting is how potential salary increases for teachers might factor into the budget. Negotiations between the district and the local teachers union, the Lawrence Education Association, will continue at 4:30 p.m. Monday before breaking for the special board meeting and ultimately resuming afterward.

At the end of last week’s contract negotiations, union representatives were left to consider the district’s offer to raise each teacher’s base pay by $2,200 per year, plus regular pay increases for additional years of service and education levels.

As of Friday, the district’s finance director was still working toward determining the district’s overall mill levy for the upcoming year, Boyle said. Earlier this year, district leaders estimated that the schools’ upcoming $87 million bond projects would increase local property taxes by 2.4 mills, equating to an annual tax increase of $55 for the owner of a $200,000 home.

Kathy Johnson, the district’s finance director, told the Journal-World last month that the mill levy increase could be less than the 2.4 mills estimated in the spring. However, she and other district leaders won’t know for sure, she said, until the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the state’s school funding formula. The district had originally expected that ruling to arrive late last month.

The 2.4 mill increase, Boyle said in an email, only applies to the district's bond and interest mill levy, and is "only one part of the total budget."

Under the Legislature’s new school finance plan, which has already gone into effect while the Supreme Court debates it, the Lawrence district would receive an estimated $74 million dollars in general fund money from the state. That number includes special education funds and would represent an approximate $6.2 million bump from the 2016-2017 school year, according to estimates from the Kansas State Department of Education via the Lawrence district.

Monday’s meeting is for publication of the budget only. The board will hold a separate meeting with a complete public hearing to approve the budget.

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Teacher contract negotiations will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will resume after the board meeting.

Comments

David Holroyd 3 months, 2 weeks ago

If they are going to lower the mill levy...okay...but otherwise they talk though both ends.

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