Baldwin school board approves 2014-15 budget with more than 3 mill decrease
There was no one in the room Monday to comment on the Baldwin school district's 2014-15 budget public hearing, but there may be a few cheers around town with news the budget will reduce the district’s property tax levy by 3.16 mills.
With the 5-0 vote (board members Chad Christie and Sandy Chapman were absent), the board approved the $20.3 million budget as it was published in The Signal. The budget sets the district’s mill levy at 65.754 mills, which compares to the 68.921 mill levy in the 2013-14 budget.
Although final budget approvals are often perfunctory because real decisions were made before the publication of the draft budget, the board had several decisions to make Monday.
The 2014-15 budget was published with the mill levy for the capital outlay fund pegged at 8 mills, which is the maximum taxing authority the board has for that fund. That was the case the past two years, but the board rolled back the levy to 7 mills when approving the final 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets. District finance director Cynde Frick also penciled in the mill levy for bond and interest fund support in the published budget at 23 mills with word to the board it would be revisited before the 2014-15 budget’s final approval.
On Monday, Frick said she proposed the 23 mill support for bond and interest with an eye to the district's steady increases in annual interest payments the next four years. Those payments will top out at $3.33 million in 2018-19 before a steep decline the next year as one bond is retired. Increasing revenue in the fund for 2014-15 would save taxpayers money as bond payments go up in the coming years, she said.
Frick informed the board, however, that an analyst with Piper Jaffray advised that if the board did want to further reduce the mill levy from that in the published budget, it would be better to cut back the bond and interest levy than that for the capital outlay fund.
In the end, the board chose to do neither. Board President Nick Harris said in an effort to keep the mill levy steady in recent years, the board made painful sacrifices. One of the areas feeling the pain was capital outlay, he said.
In approving the budget, the board was able to significantly reduce the district’s mill levy while boosting revenue for the capital outlay fund, Harris and other board members noted.
Local taxpayers benefited from the Kansas Legislature’s decision last spring to fund so-called equalization payments after a Kansas Supreme County ruling in March stated that the state’s ending those payments at the start of the recession was unconstitutional. That Legislature’s action provided additional state revenue to the local option funds and capital outlay funds of less wealthy districts like Baldwin USD 348. The additional state monies for the capital outlay fund were matching dollars, meaning that this year the board would have left state money on the table if it chose to go with less than the 8 mills of maximum authority, Superintendent Pau Dorathy said.
A mill equals $1 of revenue for the district for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. At the 65.754 overall mill levy in the approved budget, the district’s share of taxes on a $150,000 home would be $1,088.