Archive for Thursday, August 25, 2005

Budget hearing set for school district

August 25, 2005

Baldwin School District's $9 million-plus budget has been set for 2005-2006 and the school board will conduct a public hearing on the budget in a special session at 7 p.m. Monday at the district office.

Board members want to make the numbers clear to patrons.

"One of the goals of the current school board is to increase the level of communication, transparency and accountability within USD 348," said Board Member Scott Lauridsen. "Due to the complex budget reporting requirements of the state of Kansas, there were very few people within the district who understood the information well.

"Just think of your personal tax return, triple the complexity and you get an idea of what the district must report to the state each year," he said.

Case in point. The General and Supplemental General (Local Option Budget) lists the district's budget at $8,863,869. However, that does not include the Capital Outlay budget, which totals $889,073. That brings total money to be in district coffers at $9,752,942 for the 2005-2006 year.

But, that's not what Baldwin School District patrons are paying in taxes. For school purposes, there is a mill levy of 54.980, which raises $3,496,303. That includes the 8 mills for Capital Outlay. There are 5.098 additional mills that raise money for the Baldwin City Recreation Commission and employee benefit.

So, where does the additional $6 million-plus of the total budgets come from? The state. That includes, for the first time, the state picking up a big chunk of the Capital Outlay budget.

Making the budget process more in focus for patrons was an aim of the school board starting two years ago.

"In an effort to make the budget and budget process more understandable for everyone -- board members included -- the board convened a budget committee two years ago to address the issue," said Lauridsen. "This committee consisted of patrons, administrators, teachers and board members. The committee took the budget reporting information required by the state and developed a reporting format much easier for everyone to understand.

"The next step is to get this information to the public," he said.

Lauridsen produced the information and pie chart on this page as part of the effort to get it to the public. It is also available from the district. It's all about enabling the board to better represent its patrons.

"The school board is keenly aware that its role was established by the Legislature to represent the values and priorities of the community in the education experience of its children," said Lauridsen. "The leading indicator of those values and priorities can be seen in where the district spends the public's money entrusted to it by the state.

"Hopefully, presenting the information in this format will generate the discussion and feedback necessary for the school board and district to fulfill its duty," he said.

The board also encourages patrons to participate in the budget hearing that's scheduled for Monday. As for property owner's cost from the mill levy, a mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed valuation.

The district's budget will increase from 54.417 mills last year to 54.980 mills this year. That will result in approximately an extra $36,000 being taxed.

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