Ruling will help county schools
Increased state funding ordered after the state supreme court ruled that legislature violated the state constitution by reducing aid to poor districts will benefit districts in the county.
The lawsuit will help fund each school district’s local option budget (LOB).
Each district’s LOB is a fund raised through local taxes to supplement the general fund.
The amount of supplemental income for each district is different.
Districts with LOBs set at the 30-percent cap are essentially locked into using funds for tax relief, but districts with LOBs below the tax cap may use supplemental income for other purposes.
USD 397 is preparing to receive about $65,000 in additional state aid.
“We’re using the extra money to offset decreasing enrollment, provide a one-to-one ratio of iPads to students, and add robotics, biochemistry, and woodshop classes,” Superintendent Brian Smith said.
Smith said Centre’s virtual school is no longer covered by LOB funding.
Money will be used to pay off bond and interest and capital outlay projects such as improvements in air-conditioning systems, roofs, and parking lots.
While part of the windfall can be attributed to the Supreme Court ruling, the other part can be attributed to the district keeping its LOB below the 30 percent cap.
“Last year, our LOB was at 19 percent,” Smith said. “Currently it is at 25 percent, but we are going to 30 percent soon.”
Mill rates will decrease from about 19 to approximately 14.5 this year, Smith said.
Goessel school district taxpayers could see a 6.6 mill decrease in their tax rates, according to a budget proposed July 21 by the USD 411 school board.
Superintendent John Fast said the decrease could equate to a $45 savings on a $75,000 home.
The ruling restores $172,000 in state aid lost four years ago, and the money is earmarked for tax relief.
“There is no new money,” Fast said. “Our budget overall remains the same, since that is tied to our enrollment. What changes is who is paying for our budget.
“It really is a celebration for our district. In essence, our patrons receive $3.2 million of improvements in our district with a bond project while also receiving a decrease in their taxes.”
District improvements include a west annex addition, a tornado shelter, and a new high school entryway.
USD 411 also has increased its local option budget to 30 percent to maximize state aid the district can receive.
While USD 410 doesn’t plan to add any new programs, teachers, or provide new materials with additional state aid, the district does plan to use the money to lessen anticipated budget cuts.
“We’re going to receive about $150,000 more in state aid,” Superintendent Steve Noble said. “We were in the cut mode already. So what we receive alleviates about $150,000 in budget cuts.”
Noble said the district was still working on determining its proposed mill levy.
“If everything stays the same as last year, which it won’t, our estimated decrease is about 2 mills,” he said. “That’s about $24 less per year on a $100,000 home.”
Noble said $300,000 to $400,000 in additional cuts are likely unless enrollment goes up, state funding goes up more, or valuation of property goes up before the 2016 fiscal year.
“We increased as a wealthier district because our value per pupil increased and our enrollment went down,” Noble said. “At $3,852 per pupil, we are still far below the base state aid of $4,492 per student established in 2008.”
USD 408 should receive about $125,000 in additional state aid this year.
Aside from using it to help pay for the recent purchase of Chromebooks for each student, the district is weighing options.
“We’re going to see a benefit in Marion,” Superintendent Lee Leiker said. “We could possibly use freed up LOB money to increase teacher and classified staff salary.”
While no facility improvements or updates are planned, Leiker said, additional money could be used to replenish classroom resources such as textbooks and maybe aid in acquisition of new middle school volleyball uniforms that have extended their rotation.
With an LOB at 22 percent, the district’s general fund has room to grow.
“My goal is to keep the mill rate the same,” Leiker said. “Currently it is at 52.4 mills.”
“The court ruling did not really help a great deal,” Superintendent Ron Traxon said. “It did not hurt, but it did not bring in any substantial money above what were getting.”
State aid is not what one would expect for the district, Traxon said.
With 235 square miles in the district, USD 398 is relatively large, he said. With a low student population and a high valuation in relation to population, Peabody is not considered a poor district.
“Mill rates should go down about 4 mills this year and a substantial amount in the 2015-2016 school year,” he said. “This is why the state legislature is allowing the LOB cap to go to 33 instead of 30 mills.”
Traxon said the increased LOB cap is the only way districts can produce new revenue without increasing currently established mill rate.
With enrollment declining, USD 398 is losing money and has no new money coming in.
“The only way to offset this is to raise taxes, make cuts, or do both,” Traxon said. “We have done some extensive cutting in the past two years. We don’t have much room to go in this area except to go for the additional 3 mills.”
USD 398’s LOB is topped out at 30 percent.
“We elected to wait until next year to implement the 3 mill raise at the same time we drop 15.7 mills of bond and interest mills,” Traxon said. “While we increase our LOB mill rates to offset revenue loss due to decreasing enrollment, our taxpayers still see taxes assessed to a mills drop over 12.”