District voters to decide fate of LOB
Supt. James White wants voters to be educated when they go to the polls on Tuesday.
That is why the school district is sponsoring two question and answer sessions about the local option budget (LOB) one at 7:30 tonight and again on Monday at the Baldwin High School library. The local option budget is used by Kansas school districts as a supplement to their general funds.
An increase to the Baldwin school district's LOB will be on Tuesday's primary election ballot. The district wants to increase the supplemental budget to fund technology purchases, facility additions and improvements, increases to teacher and staff salaries, maintenance of the charter school, and band instrument purchases.
The district is asking for the authority to raise the LOB to 25 percent of its general fund budget, which would generate about $1.5 million for the district, compared to about $750,000 generated by a 12 percent LOB in the 1999-2000 budget.
White said the increase to the LOB would mean an increase to property taxes. He said the owner of a $100,000 house would pay about $240 more a year in taxes, White figured. The LOB mill levy would rise from 10 mills to 23 mills with the increase to 25 percent. A mill is $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
"I can't tell people this won't raise their taxes," White said. "It will raise their taxes, but I feel confident that good schools are the number one priority for a community.
"I hope the vote will show a vote of support for the schools, teachers and staff. I hope people will see it in that light and support us."
Even without a majority vote from voters, the district can raise its 2000-2001 LOB to the state average of similar-sized school districts or 17 percent, which increased from 12 percent in 1999-2000. That increase also will mean a property tax increase. White said preliminary figures show the current 10 mill levy could jump to about 20 mills.
White said he doesn't anticipate the district needing any more than 17 percent for the upcoming school year. However, the residential construction around town has him concerned about a growth spurt of students. In June, the school board approved the hiring of an architectural firm to develop a master plan of facility needs in the district. District officials already expect Baldwin Junior High School and Vinland Elementary School will need additional classroom space.
"At this point I don't plan on using any more than 17 percent this year," White said. "The only way we may need more is if we had a tremendous influx of students and needed to buy some mobile classroom units."
Although a 17 percent LOB should be enough for the district this year, he does not want to downplay the importance of raising the LOB to 25 percent. That authority would allow the district to use more than the 17 percent, if needed, and could play a more important role of securing additional funding from the state. He said school districts operating under a 25 percent LOB, can receive state funding for building and renovation projects.
White said the need for an LOB at all is caused by under-funding at the state level something all Kansas school districts are experiencing.
"All of us in the school business have been struggling with underfunding," White said. "Now nearly all school districts use the LOB to support ongoing expenses."
In fact, he said school districts depend on the LOB to conduct business.
"More and more all the time," White said.
In March, the school district approved increasing the local option budget from 12 percent of the general fund budget, the state average for the year, to 25 percent, the maximum allowed by the state. The board's decision was challenged by community members through a petition, because petition carriers thought residents within the district should have a right to vote on the issue. The successful petition landed it on Tuesday's ballot.
White said he would like to see a strong voter turn-out.
"The more people who express their opinion by voting, the better," he said. "I don't think a small number should dictate what happens. I hope we get a good turn-out, and a strong voice from the people in Baldwin."