Group wants to put LOB to vote
While Supt. James White and the school board are discussing LOB-funded capital improvement projects, a group of citizens in the school district have organized a petition to put the increase to a vote.
With an increase of the LOB from 12 percent of the $6 million general fund budget to 25 percent, the maximum allowed, White said the owner of a $100,000 house would pay about $240 a year more in taxes or $20 a month.
Don Cashatt, a circulator of the petition and chairman of Douglas County Property Owners, urged the board to fund the improvements through a bond issue. He said most people don't know what an LOB is, and that many residents can't afford higher taxes.
"Out in the public there is an awful lot of people that don't understand the LOB and others who understand it a little bit," Cashatt told the board. "The fear of the public is we go to the LOB, we max it out, then we go to bonds. We are laying on the public a tax burden that is difficult for some to meet."
Cashatt said his share of the increase would be $502 this year.
"We want a good education, but we want something we can afford," he said.
The petition was organized by community members and reviewed by Douglas County counsel. Renee Richard, an organizer of the petition, said the group had collected 160 of 175 required signatures by Tuesday morning based on 5 percent of the 3,497 registered voters in the school district. A petition can be circulated for 30 days following approval and publication of the LOB, or March 17-April 17, Richard said. She said the petitions will be circulated until Friday.
"I'm not opposed to the district necessarily getting the money," said Richard, owner of Paige's Parlor & Barber Shop. "I believe we should have the option to vote on it. It makes them present what they will use the money for, and we get to vote on it."
White said the LOB is needed to fund technology, the charter school and salaries. A bond issue could be pursued to fund the capital improvement projects, but some of those projects are urgent, he said. Growth-related additions are planned at Vinland Elementary School and Baldwin Junior High School.
"As we look around and see houses and rooftops on the horizon, we are concerned we are not moving fast enough," White said about the growth of the community.
Cashatt also said the LOB increase was approved without sufficient public discussion.
"It seemed like it was mentioned and approved without much opportunity to get involved," he said. "Of course it has already passed now. You can withdraw it, or it can go to a vote."
White said the petition will give the district an opportunity to inform the public more about the LOB, and about the need for funding beyond what is received from the state.
"Certainly, a petition is a part of the statute," White said. "Mr. Cashatt suggested we didn't get the word out well enough. This will get our word out, about the underfunding by the legislature."
Board president Ed Schulte agreed.
"We are handcuffed to what the legislature gives us," Schulte said. "The one thing we have control over is the LOB. We do know there are a number of people in the community that $20 is a lot of money for. We are trying to balance that out with what our needs are."