Districts slash taxes in 2014-15 budgets

Districts slash taxes in 2014-15 budgets

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The results of a lawsuit against the State of Kansas are already reaching the pocket books of Osage County residents, as four of the county’s five districts post significant decreases to their mill rates.

The Gannon v. Kansas lawsuit, filed in 2010 and settled in March, found it’s the Legislature’s constitutional responsibility to fund the state’s schools.

“The SFT Board of Education was a member of the Schools for Fair Funding lawsuit that believed the State of Kansas wasn’t meeting their obligation to fund schools,” said USD 434 Superintendent Steve Pegram. “The lower mill rate is a result of board involvement in the suit and you are seeing the effects at this time.”

Santa Fe Trail USD 434 will see a decrease of 6.397 mills, on top of the 3.193-drop last year. The budget was published in the July 17 edition of The Herald-Chronicle.

“When compared to the 2012-13 school year, there is a nearly 17 percent reduction in the districts’ mill rate, or around a 9.6 mill decrease over the past two years,” Pegram said.

Lyndon USD 421 will see the largest single-year decrease, with an 8.253 mill rate reduction (17.34 percent), leaving the district with the lowest rate in the county, 39.354. The aid sets the rate 2.031 mills lower than the 2012-13 rate, which saw a 6.222 increase last summer.

USD 421 anticipates publishing its budget in the July 31 edition.

Osage City USD 420 had conservative estimates of a 3 or 4 mill decrease, but showed a 7.638 decrease (13.47 percent) in the budget, published this week (see Public Notices on page 8 of this weeks print/PDF edition).

“We feel pretty good about the budget,” said USD 420 Superintendent Troy Hutton. “I wasn’t positive what would happen with the bond and interest.”

The bond commitment reduced from 10.213 to 6.865 mills. The district was also able to reduce the mill rate 4.6 lower than 2012-13, while adding a projected $108,302 (4 mills) to capital outlay.

We were able to lower mills and still increase capital outlay,” Hutton said, noting the funding will be earmarked for carpet replacement and a new bus. “It just shows you that lack of equalization had a huge impact across the state. It was hurting districts like us pretty bad. It hurt all of us.”

Santa Fe Trail also looked to use capital outlay increases to prepare for repairs to aging roofs and HVAC systems.

“We have some things coming at us,” Pegram said. “The majority of roofs are out of warranty, and the heating and air is all close to 20 years old.”

Burlingame USD 454 saw a notable decrease of 2.767 mills in its budget, published July 17; while Marais des Cygnes Valley USD 456 projects holding still at 38.04, a decrease of just .025 mill.

“We’re very close to where we were last year,” said USD 456 Superintendent Darrel Finch. “We welcome the court ruling, but we won’t see as much impact. We have been lower than districts around us, and were not maxed out on our local option budget.”

The district hopes to increase savings in its special education fund, as well as capital outlay, which was used to complete improvements to the MdCV Elementary School in Quenemo without issuing bonds.

“We did spend quite a bit of money on that project, but we didn’t have to borrow any money,” Finch said. “We’re going to replenish those funds, and we’ll have more funds going into the school.”

Budgets are figured based on the full time enrollment for each district. Districts and superintendents will now watch to see how projections line up actual numbers of students when school begins in less than a month.

“I’m not real sure what’s going to happen with enrollment,” Hutton said. “I’m crossing my fingers when enrollment comes, we’ll be up a little bit.”

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