Archive for Wednesday, August 15, 2001

School, city OK budgets for 2002

Special education costs a concern for superintendent

August 15, 2001

Tonganoxie school district's $11.9 million budget is up about $1 million over last year.

But Superintendent Richard Erickson said $11.9 million is an inflated figure, calculated to maximize state aid.

According to the district's working unpublished budget, the district is more likely to follow a budget of $9.8 million.

If by chance the district's enrollment would increase, the $11.9 million would allow for corresponding additional expenditures and would save the district from having to republish a budget.

No district patrons appeared at Monday night's budget hearing, which set the district's 2001-2002 mill levy at 44.09, up 2.26 mills over last year's 41.8. Two years ago, the mill levy was 40.3.

Meanwhile, the city of Tonganoxie also approved its 2002 budget. It calls for a 1.455-mill increase from last year.

The rise in the school district mill levy, Erickson said, is primarily due to increases in the local option budget, which this year is at 17.2 mills. A year ago USD 464's LOB was set at 14.4 mills, and two years ago, 12.3 mills.

One mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

The LOB is an easier tax for district patrons to shoulder than, for instance, a capital outlay mill levy, Erickson said, because the LOB is a matching tax in which district patrons pay 61 percent and the state pays 39 percent.

This year the LOB is scheduled to add $1,534,490 to district coffers in the published budget. During the 2000-2001 school year the LOB brought in $1,145,415. And during the 1999-2000 school year the LOB contributed $810,000 to the district.

Because the general fund is salary-intensive, with about 85 percent of it used for salaries, LOB proceeds fund other areas. The LOB pays for technology, curriculum supplies, classroom supplies and materials and equipment, provides for maintenance and custodial supplies and equipment, and is also used to fund the special education budget and transfers to other funds. Additionally, the LOB covers in-service expenditures, the Parents as Teachers program, transportation, vocational education and summer school.

"So, the LOB has become a very important budget for our school district," Erickson said.

Erickson said he was concerned about the district's rising cost of funding special education. The district contracts services through the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative.

This year, the district's actual cost of contracting for special education services will be $634,548, Erickson said. This is an increase over last year.

"Our special education assessment has gone up by about $37,000 to $40,000," Erickson said. "And they're going to cut our services, which hurts it really does."

Because state funding does not keep up with special education needs for teachers and paraeducatiors, the cooperative has decided against filling positions held by several Tonganoxie teachers who recently resigned.

However, Erickson noted, the cooperative had agreed, if necessary to hire two paraeducators to help provide special education services in Tonganoxie. This cost would mean an additional $7,000 assessment for the Tonganoxie school district, he said.

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