Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Questions remain

March 31, 2005

To the editor:

The Lansing Board of Education is asking the voters to approve a $23.6 million bond issue.

The board does not want to publicly commit to how the existing elementary buildings will be utilized once the new facility is completed. If they remain district property, we will be required to continue the maintenance, custodial and utilities on the old buildings, leaving the maintenance, custodial and utilities costs of the new facility as new bills with little or no offset. Will we need to hire additional staff? Will we need to cut other programs to pay these additional costs?

As of Sept. 20, 2004, the district had at least 104 out-of-district students attending Lansing schools and 140 L.E.A.P. students. L.E.A.P. is a program designed for adults of any age to take classes through a computer program to earn a Lansing High School diploma instead of going through a GED program. A large number of L.E.A.P. students are from outside the district. The district receives state aid for the out-of-district and L.E.A.P. students, increasing the general fund budget, which increases the Local Option Budget (LOB). The LOB is a tax assessed on the district taxpayers. Parents of out-of-district students do not pay toward the Lansing LOB. The LOB is currently maxed at 25 percent, and the members of the state legislature are proposing a change to allow the school district to increase their LOB to 30 percent without voter approval. Based on current state funding and the enrollment numbers remaining the same, the Lansing property owners, with a small portion of state aid, will be paying a minimum $235,000 in additional LOB for out-of-district and L.E.A.P. students. Will we be taking more out-of-district students to fund our shortfalls?

The district and the "Vote for Kids" group are advertising how the proposed mill levy has dropped over the first estimates received in January. Part of the decrease is due to the increased property values; the rest is due to using $280,000, currently in reserve, to pay toward an existing bond. What they don't tell you is that new interest rates have increased the proposed bond issue by $898,781 between the January and March estimates to $41,489,020 for a total district debt of $52,448,403. Keep in mind that the numbers presented by anyone are estimates (interest and mill levy) and the interest rates won't be locked in until the bonds are sold several months after the election. So the numbers could go up or down depending on the accuracy of the revised estimate.

The money from the state is not "free" money. The Legislature for the financially strapped State of Kansas cannot agree on how to increase funding mandated by the court for the operation of the school districts; bond issues will only increase their problems as the state pays 34 percent of the bond issues. In order for the state to continue to fund even current operations, they must either cut other programs, some of which directly affect our children, or raise taxes (real estate, property, sales or income taxes) or a combination of all.

Traffic problems? With 104 extra students, I estimate that brings an additional 75 to 104 vehicles to our school buildings each day, not to mention the effect of the L.E.A.P. traffic in our community.

The information regarding the enrollment and bond figures were extracted from information provided by the Lansing superintendent.

If we want this community to continue to exist, a vote "NO" could be a "Vote for Kids."

Betty Klinedinst

Leavenworth

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