Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

District avoids mill levy boost

August 10, 2006

De Soto USD 232 won't have to raise its mill levy after all.

At Monday's board meeting, district director of budget and finance Ken Larsen proposed a budget for the 2006-2007 school year. The budget will be published in the De Soto Explorer for two weeks, and then the district will have a public hearing before approving a budget.

Although the district isn't raising its mill levy, some taxpayers may see an increase in their school property tax because of a rise in assessed valuation.

This year's total mill levy of 69.081 actually has a slight decrease from last year's total levy of 69.115 mills. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

This is the fourth year in a row the district has had a decrease in its mill levy. The total budget for this year is proposed at $63.4 million. Last year's budget seemed much less at $50.4 million, but because of the new school finance system across the state some of the individual funds are actually counted twice.

District director of communications Alvie Cater said the district won't see much new money from the latest school finance plan passed last spring by the Kansas Legislature and approved last month by the Kansas Supreme Court. However, the influx of new students is helping the district financially, he said.

The district is projecting an increase of 450 more students this year than the year before. The district will receive a base state aid per pupil of $4,316 plus extraordinary growth enrollment weighting.

Administrators are projecting an enrollment count of 5,366 full-time equivalency students this year, which will be officially counted the third week of September.

Larsen said operations and planning director Jack Deyoe's projections have been quite accurate so far.

"We estimate on the high side so we don't have to republish the budget," he said. "We ended up more than 27 last year than what we realistically expected."

A new expenditure allowed by the state, called the cost of living adjustment, is being used by several wealthier districts. Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said that although De Soto qualifies for COLA funds since the cost of living is 25 percent higher than surrounding areas, they have decided not to levy the extra tax.

The district is also allowed to raise local option budget from 27 percent of its general fund to 30 percent. Cater said the district is required to tax the maximum LOB in order to take advantage of funds such as the new facility money. Although the district won't receive any new facility money this year, that will change next year with the opening of the new middle school and elementary school.

Board members also saw a report from County Economic Research Institute on 45 school districts within the Kansas City metropolitan area. USD 232 ranks No. 12 for property tax charged by each of the 45 districts. The study was based on the cost of a residential property assessed at $100,000, and USD 232's tax was listed at $749. Shawnee Mission and Osawatomie school district's ranked the lowest at $526. Lee's Summit, Mo., ranked at the top at $1,107.

"We've always thought of ourselves as really high on the tax side, and we're really not," board member Sandy Thierer said. "It certainly sends a different picture than what we've been talking about."

De Soto will have a public hearing for its budget at 6 p.m. Aug. 21 during the regular board meeting.

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