District looks to trim mill levy
Even with a new bond issue on the books and an increase in local option budget spending, Lansing School District is poised to lower its tax levy by 2.63 mills for the 2005-06 budget cycle.
Superintendent Randal Bagby presented the budget Monday to Lansing School Board members during a budget discussion.
Bagby told the board he had "great news for taxpayers" about the mill rate for the district this year.
Increased state funding and an increase in property valuation, he said, would require that the levy to pay for the $23.6 million bond issue to build a new elementary school and high school auditorium would be about 1.7 mills this year. The increase originally was estimated to be 6.4 mills and was revised to 3.5 mills in February.
A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The levy to pay off the debt, Bagby said, should either stay the same or decrease throughout the life of the bond.
"Not only can we say we told the truth, we did better," Bagby said.
During the discussion, the board agreed to raise the local option budget for 2005-06. The Kansas Supreme Court last month approved a provision in the school finance law to increase the limit on local option budgets, or LOBs. Under the change, an LOB can now account for up to 27 percent of a district's general fund, , up from 25 percent.
Lansing school district qualifies to raise the percentage without a board resolution or voter protest because the district's spending per pupil is below the state average, Bagby said.
The Lansing district had levied the maximum LOB in the past, and board members agreed to increase the levy to the new cap.
Bagby said the additional 2 percent would raise about $200,000 for the district, but the cost to taxpayers would be nullified because of changes in the Legislature's new equalization formula.
As part of the equalization, the state has increased its funding from 42.5 percent of the LOB last year to 49.5 percent this year, Bagby said.
The 7 percent increase "more than paid for" the LOB increase and results in "no harm to taxpayers," he said, noting the state money would amount to about $90,000.
Bagby told the board his reasons for recommending the 27 percent LOB budget option. He said that if the board keeps the LOB at 25 percent, it would send three messages to district patrons: that the court was wrong to allow the increase; that the Legislature wasted its time in the special session; and "a clear public statement that we don't need the money," which is not true, he said.
Bagby said the increased funds would be used to increase teacher salaries and health-care benefits.
Overall, the proposed levy for the budget will drop to 48.721 mills, down from last year's 51.351-mill levy.
After its discussion, the board set a budget hearing for 6 p.m. Aug. 22 in the Lansing Middle School choir room. Once the hearing has been completed, the board is expected to adopt the budget.