Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

District budget work awaits Court

July 13, 2006

Although De Soto USD 232's budget process is still on hold, school officials see a rise in assessed valuation as a positive factor leading into the planning season.

District budget and finance director Ken Larsen said the district couldn't really move forward with planning the budget until the Kansas Supreme Court made a ruling on the Kansas Legislature's latest school finance plan.

"We're waiting to find out what's going to happen," he said. "You really can't plan a budget without knowing exactly what they're going to do."

Larsen said this year's assessed valuation totals show $353.8 million for the general fund and $375.3 million for the supplemental general fund. He said that's an increase from one year ago when the total was $312.9 million for the general fund and $333.2 million for the supplemental general fund. Larsen said both funds are used for general operation expenses, teachers' salaries, utilities and other day-to-day expenses.

The district collects revenue from property taxes assessed through a mill levy. In theory, an increase in a taxing entity's assessed valuation would allow it to collect more revenue with the same mill levy. Whether the mill levy remains the same this year has yet to be determined, Larsen said.

One problem for the district is that although the assessed valuation did increase, much of that was from new rooftops, which means more students in the schools. The district has about 300 to 400 new students each year and must build new classrooms to accommodate them.

Larsen said last year the district taxed its maximum local option budget allowed, which is 27 percent of the general fund. As it stands before the Supreme Court ruling, the district has the authority to increase its LOB to the allowed maximum of 30 percent of the general fund.

In the past the district has maintained its LOB at the highest rate allowed so that it will be eligible for other funding -- such as extra money for students in new classrooms -- available only to districts with maximum LOBs.

De Soto school board president Sandy Thierer said an assessed valuation increase doesn't always mean more students. She said the increase could be not only because of an increased number of houses, but an increase in new businesses.

"At this point, the assessed valuation going up is a good thing, because it doesn't necessarily equate to new students," she said. "Assessed valuation has partly to do with individual home values. Also, it may have increased because there are more businesses along the Shawnee Mission Parkway and K-7 corridor."

Larsen said the increase in business contributions to this year's assessed valuation is still light, which puts a greater burden on residential taxpayers.

Larsen said the state would have to give every school district in Kansas more time to prepare budgets with the court delay. He said the state first had to prepare paperwork with the legal changes, and then the district would fill out the paperwork

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