Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

Board seeks added mill levy authority

February 8, 2007

The De Soto USD 232 Board of Education agreed Monday to ask the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals for the authority to raise additional property taxes to help pay for the added costs of opening two news schools.

District finance director Ken Larson asked and received the board's approval to seek added mill levy authority from the extraordinary growth tax.

"This isn't anything new for this district," he said. "This would be at least the third time we've had to go to BOTA.

"If we are going to continue the programs the district has in place, it will be necessary to have extraordinary authority."

The added authority is limited to fast-growing districts opening new schools. Larson said only about four districts in the state that had been given the added taxing authority, and they were in Johnson County.

Larson estimated it would cost the district an additional $1.85 million in salaries and utilities to open Horizon Elementary School and another $2 million to open Mill Creek Middle School. District enrollment growth and extra state dollars for students in new classrooms will offset more than half of that but still leave a $1.76 million shortfall, or the amount of extra authority the district will request.

The added authority would be granted for five years and would 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.

At last year's valuation rate (which will obviously change when the Johnson County Appraiser's Office releases its annual reappraisal next month), 1 mill of taxing authority brought in $375,000 of revenue to the district. At that rate, the $1.65 million in added authority would equal 4.39 mills.

Should the district find its numbers healthier when the budget is prepared this summer, it could tax at less than the maximum authority granted, Larson said.

The recommendation was approved 6-1 with Randy Johnson dissenting.

"I'll just make the comment we're taxed very high in this district," he said. "I think we can make do with what we have."

Kansas Board of Tax Appeals executive director Trevor Wolford said Tuesday the board would make a decision on the request at a hearing scheduled when it received the request.

The Kansas Board of Tax Appeals decision would be a procedural one in which it is determined if USD 232's request met the conditions of state statute and the district's math showing a need was correct.

"The (BOTA) board is a procedural check," he said. "The board won't substitute its decision for that of the local body."

Public notice would be given of the hearing date, and the public could provide comment, Wolford said.

Johnson did have success in convincing his fellow board members to accept a lower bid for new playground equipment for Horizon Elementary. The bids were actually in the form of responses from the district for request for proposals for the playground equipment, district facilities director Denis Johnson said. The district had budgeted $150,000 for the equipment.

He recommended the district accept the proposal from ATHCO for $157,980 rather than that from AB Creative for $148.675, the facilities director said. The ATHCO bid provided enough added play components to be a better value for the $9,000, he said.

But in an appeal that found favor with his fellow board members, Johnson agued the district should stay within the $150,000 for the playground equipment.

"One of my biggest beefs has always been breaking budget," he said. "I know it's not much, but it's not small potatoes to me. We've spend a lot of this school already with the street."

The board also approved the purchase of 580 laptop computers for teachers and students of the two new schools for $737,754 from Dell. District technology director Jeff Mildner said the purchase would provide the schools with the computers they would need at full capacity.

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