Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

USD 232 board OKs budget, mill levy raise

August 9, 2007

Two new schools opening later this month will mean higher taxes for De Soto USD 232 home and business owners.

The De Soto School Board Monday night approved a 1.7 mill increase to the district's mill levy, setting it at 71.409 mills. The increased rate will raise about $27.5 million in taxes to support part of the district's $85 million budget.

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in assessed valuation for residential property. The owner of a $150,000 home would pay about $1,185.81 in taxes to the district or about $99 per month.

The approved budget includes a half-mill increase in capital outlay funds to pay for a 48-month lease of 500 laptops with an annual payment of $185,898. The board voted 5-2 in favor of this increase at its June 4 meeting in order to put laptops in the hands of all district teachers.

The budget also includes a 4.975 mill increase to the extraordinary growth fund levy bringing it to 6.167 mills. Earlier this year, the board authorized district officials to request the extra authority for that fund from the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals. District budget and finance director Ken Larsen said at that time, the authority, which was granted, was needed to off set an estimated $3.85 million in salaries and operational cost with the opening Horizon Elementary School and Mill Creek Middle School.

The added authority was granted for five years and will decline to 75 percent of the new authority in the third year, 50 percent in the fourth year and 25 percent in the final year.

The 6.167 mills proposed will provide about $2.4 million in revenue for the 2007-08 school year.

That increase was offset partially by a decline in the debt service mill levy for past school bonds. That mill levy declined more than 4 mills from 25.365 in 2006-07 to 21.078 for 2007-08.

Former school board member Sandra Thierer addressed the board during the budget hearing before the school board meeting Monday night and commended them for keeping the mill levy low.

"While opening two new schools and giving a raise for teachers and administration, you managed to raise only 1.7 mills in my taxes," she said.

Before the board voted on the budget, it was removed from the consent agenda for further discussion.

Board member Randy Johnson said he thought the half-mill increase to the capital outlay fund to pay for laptops was not needed and that they probably could be paid for out of the capital outlay contingency fund.

Larsen said in previous meetings that the $6 million capital outlay contingency fund helped the district get better rates when applying for bonds.

Board members at the last meeting asked for specifics on how much is needed in the contingency fund in order to get better rates, but Larsen didn't have the answer at the time.

The issue came up again at Monday night's meeting.

"To what point does it make us look good in terms of contingency?" at-large board member Don Clark asked.

To the annoyance of some board members, Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said she didn't have the answer for the board but that the budget had to be approved at Monday's meeting in order to be in compliance with state statute.

The board voted 5-2 to approve the budget. Randy Johnson and Bill Fletcher dissented.

However, the board voted for specifics on how much money was needed in the capital outlay contingency fund for better rates on bonds to be presented to them at the next meeting Sept. 10.

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