Archive for Thursday, March 17, 2005

Valuation rise drops mill levy for bond

March 17, 2005

Lansing School Board members and school bond supporters received welcome news this week: The projected levy to pay off the proposed $23.6 million school bond issue will be nearly 3 mills lower than originally thought.

Officials with Piper Jaffray, the district's bond adviser, presented the financial update at the board meeting Monday night.

Greg Vahrenberg, a Piper Jaffray representative, said the lower mill levy was the result of the increase in assessed valuation of area homes due to the recent reappraisal.

The levy increase needed to pay debt service on the bond issue is now projected to be 3.773 mills, down from the previous estimate of 6.43 mills.

A mill is $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

The total levy for the district's bond and interest fund in 2005-2006, the first year the payments on the new school would kick in, would be 14.334 mills rather than 17 mills. It would include debt service on the new school and auditorium, plus payments on bonds that built Lansing Middle School.

If voters approve the bond issue, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay about $65 in property taxes next year toward the district's debt.

Ali Zeck, a member of the steering committee for the bond issue, said the lower mill levy should be incentive for those who might have voted against the bond referendum to change their votes. She said she thought building a new school in Lansing would be inevitable and that the price would only go up.

"I don't know that we'll ever get the great deal we have (now)," Zeck said.

Randal Bagby, superintendent of schools, said the district was in an enviable situation: District voters could approve construction of a new school and auditorium and still see a decrease in the mill levy for debt service compared to 2001. The mill rate for bond and interest in 2000-2001 was 14.813, compared to the projected 14.334 rate for 2005-2006.

Vahrenberg said the levy for bond and interest would stay around 14 until 2016, when it would drop to about 11 for the remainder of the 20-year bond payoff.

He said the rate was "by no means high" compared to those of other school districts.

School Board President Shelly Gowdy said the lower mill levy was great news.

"It is another strong indication that the community is growing and that this is the right bond issue at the right time," she said.

Earlier Monday night, the board heard comments from Herman Visocsky, a member of Taxpayers for Responsible School Funding.

Visocsky said he wanted taxpayers to know how much they would pay for the schools over the life of the bond. He said he used district-provided numbers to estimate that the owner of a $150,000 house would pay $4,455 from 2004 to 2026 on the district's proposed and two outstanding bonds.

The board also heard from Mary Alice Schroeger, director of the Lansing Educational Foundation Fund. She said the fund currently had $11,000 but was still paying bills from the breakfast with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. She also announced that the foundation was ready to begin distributing grants to organizations in the district that demonstrated need. Board member Keith Rickard urged Schroeger and the foundation to set a fund-raising goal in order to become independent of the district, which currently pays Schroeger's director's salary.

In other action, the board:

¢ Approved the calendar for the 2005-2006 school year, which will begin Aug. 15.

¢ Cut Quick Start, a two-week middle school summer program, because of low attendance.

¢ Agreed to play host to the Kansas Association of School Boards on Oct. 17.

¢ Approved a one-year extension of the transportation contract with Durham School Services. Bagby said he did not want to renew a three-year contract with the company in the event that the school bond passed. He said it was a top priority not to have students having to walk across Kansas Highway 7 to get to the new school, but rather to bus them across the highway.

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