Baldwin school board approves publishing budget with 3.492 mill decrease
Thanks to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling in March, the Baldwin school district will ask less of its taxpayers in the coming fiscal year.
At its Monday meeting, the Baldwin school board approved publication of the 2014-2015 budget that would reduce the district’s overall property tax levy by 3.492 mills. Publication of the budget sets maximum expenditure levels, which the board can reduce before adopting the 2014-2015 budget at its Aug. 18 meeting.
The local mill levy reduction reflects the Kansas Legislature’s response to a court finding that the state’s decision to suspend so-called equalization payments to the local option budgets of less well-off districts was unconstitutional. The payments were suspended during the start of the recession.
The additional state aid didn’t increase total revenue in the district’s local option budget. The proposed budget shows the district will spend $11.31 million of general fund and local option budget revenue, which pay teacher salaries and day-to-day operational costs, in the 2014-2015 school year compared to the $11.47 million spent last fiscal year. However, the added state aid will require fewer local tax dollars have to be raised to support the local option budget. Consequently, the district’s local option mill levy support decreased from 20.425 mills in the 2013-2014 school year to 14.429 mills for the proposed 2014-2015 budget.
That decrease was offset somewhat by increases to the mill levies that support the district’s capital outlay fund and bond and interest payments. There was nearly $4 million in carryover funds in the bond and interest fund but the district had a bond payment of about $3 million due in August, said district director of financial Operations Cynde Frick.
For purposes of the budget’s publication, Frick set the capital outlay fund mill levy at 8 mills, the district's maximum taxing authority for the fund. The board can decide in August whether to go with that amount and the $610,000 in revenue it is expected to raise, or reduce the capital outlay funds support to the 7 mills of recent years, she said.
A mill equals $1 of revenue for the district for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. At the 65.429 overall mill levy in the published budget, the district’s share of taxes on a $150,000 home would be $1,083.
In anticipation of a tight budget year, the board had a series of meetings in February and March to consider how it could deal with the Legislature’s reluctance to add significant dollars to state per-pupil aid. The Legislature did agree to increase state base per-pupil aid for the 2014-2015 school year by $14 per student to $3,852, which compares to the 2009-09 figure of $4,433 before the recession forced budget cuts.
On the table in those meetings were reductions to classified and certified staff. The district was able to avoid those measures because of the retirement of eight faculty members, Superintendent Paul Dorathy said. The district will save money on their younger replacements who will start with lower salaries.
Dorathy said one retired position, that of district librarian, will be filled with an independent contractor who will work only 22 days during the school year but be available for consultation as needed. The district also reduced the staff by a half-time position at Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, he said.
The proposed 2014-2015 budget will be published in The Signal after it is reviewed by the Kansas Department of Education. District patrons will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed budget at a hearing Aug. 18 before the board adopts a final budget.