Archive for Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Board should check the double-checkers

January 23, 2008

The horse is out of the pasture. But at least in terms of future Tonganoxie School District budgets, the gate now will be tended.

A week ago, Supt. Richard Erickson told board members of a plan he will institute in hopes of avoiding any future recurrence of a problem that caused the district to overcharge its taxpayers $367,000 in property taxes for this year's budget.

The plan? Two district employees other than Erickson will look over the school budget before it is officially submitted to the county for certification.

This past August, the Tonganoxie School Board adopted a budget that called for a levy of 50.603 mills. (A mill is $1 in taxes for every dollar in assessed valuation.) The figure was more than 4 mills lower than the budget the board had approved for publication a month earlier.

The problem occurred when Erickson submitted to the county clerk paperwork with the published figures rather than the adopted figures. The extra 4.093 mills meant taxpayers were on the hook for $367,000 in overpayments.

Earlier this month, the board consented to Erickson's plan to make up for the error by decreasing the school budget by $415,000 the next three years through lowered mill levies. Erickson told board members he arrived at the $415,000 figure by tacking interest onto the $367,000 overcharge.

Erickson's error, justifiably, upset many district patrons. It is, after all, money out of their pocket at a time when the economy is less than thriving.

Some of those patrons also are upset with Erickson' three-year plan to lower the mill levy. They believe a more equitable solution would be for the district to rebate the overpaid taxes later this year.

Because board members by all public accounts still are supportive of the superintendent, there's no sense chastising Erickson any further for submitting the wrong budget figures to the county clerk.

In accepting Erickson's plan, the board made the correct decision to make sure the same error doesn't occur again. But board members would do well to be sure they assist in tending the budget gate in the future.

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