Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Taxes to increase as part of Lawrence school district’s proposed budget

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

August 8, 2017

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The Lawrence school board on Monday voted to publish its 2017-2018 budget, setting the district’s maximum budget authority and maximum mill levy for the next year.

Property taxes will increase as part of the budget plan, which calls for a tax hike of 3.5 mills. That figure equates to an increase of $80.50 per year for the owner of a home appraised at $200,000. Monday’s meeting established the maximum amount of taxes to be levied at around 56.9 mills.

Kathy Johnson, the district’s director of finance, said the increase was needed to absorb changes to state aid through the Legislature’s new school finance bill. Under the bill, which went into effect earlier this summer while the Kansas Supreme Court debates its constitutionality, the Lawrence district would receive an additional $6.2 million, roughly. The new plan, which breaks from three years of flat funding in the state’s old block-grant system, led to an increase in the district’s local option budget authority, Johnson said, requiring a 2.3 mill increase in local revenue.

“It’s part of how the equalization works,” Johnson said. “And as we become a wealthier county within the scope of the state, then we equalize with less state aid than a district that’s going in the other direction.”

Also factoring in the 3.5 mill increase is the district’s decision to sell only half the bonds approved by voters in May’s $87 million bond election. Originally, the improvements to Lawrence’s secondary schools were estimated to raise taxes by 2.4 mills. The school board’s decision on Monday will slash that figure by half, with the remaining bonds to be issued during the 2018-2019 period.

“We don’t need the other half of it until a year from now, and so there’s no reason to go ahead and levy and do something with that until we need it,” Johnson said.

The board on Monday also scheduled a public budget hearing for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Monday’s meeting only approved the publication of the budget, which will be printed soon in the Journal-World.

In other business:

• Negotiations between the district and the local teachers union reached an impasse Monday night, as the parties failed to come to an agreement over teacher salaries. Representatives from the Lawrence Education Association on Monday said that impasse papers would be filed within the next week, after which a mediator from the Kansas Department of Labor will meet with each group independently. Monday’s meeting was the sixth between union and district representatives since negotiations began in the spring.

This article originally stated that the district's $87 million bond projects would increase the mill levy by 4.2 mills, which is incorrect. The bond renovations were originally estimated to increase the mill levy by 2.4 mills, not 4.2 mills.

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