USD 232 cautious with sales tax funds
De Soto USD 232's first check from the Johnson County's new quarter-cent sales tax has been deposited in an interest-bearing account, but district officials still aren't ready to bank on it.
County voters approved the sales tax last August. It will sunset at the end of 2006 unless county voters approve an extension.
The county's share of the sales tax was made available to its six school districts as economic development grants. As such, there are restrictions on how the districts could use the funds. It cannot be applied to general fund items like teachers' salaries, but upgrades to technology and facilities are OK.
The first revenue collected from the sales tax was forwarded to school districts last month. USD 232's portion was $170,692, District Director of Budget and Finance Ken Larson said.
Johnson County Budget Director Doug Robinson estimated the sales tax should provide USD 232 with $595,000 this year. The first disbursement was from 2003's first quarter, he said.
The USD 232 Board of Education agreed the revenue would be spent on computer technology hardware, Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said. But for the time being, the money will be left in an interest-bearing account.
"We're not going to spend it until the lawsuits get resolved," she said.
Johnson County was the first county in the state to introduce a sales tax that provided revenue to school districts, although the city of Salina approved a sales tax that provided the local district with technology funds.
The Johnson County tax wasn't well received in some areas of the state because it was thought the rich county could tap into a funding source to benefit its school district that was unavailable elsewhere. Wyandotte County school district's attempt to get a restraining order to stop the tax's collection was denied by a state district court judge. That case was now on appeal before a state appeals court, Johnson County attorney Don Jarrett said.
The county has also been successful in defending the tax in Johnson County District Court against a challenge brought by Mary Gomez of Olathe. Jarrett said the judge in the case issued summary judgments in June on three points favoring the county. Other portions of that suit are under consideration. Jarrett said he was confident the count would prevail in both challenges.
When the Johnson County Commission voted to put the sales tax before voters, it urged cities in the county forward their share of the revenue to school districts.
"We're not receiving anything from our cities," Zoellner said. "We never asked them for that."