2-mill hike proposed for schools
City, school board approve mill levy increases
The Tonganoxie School Board has approved a similar mill levy increase — roughly 2 mills — as the Tonganoxie City Council.
During a special meeting Monday to discuss its budget, the school board approved Superintendent Kyle Hayden’s recommendation to increase the number of mills by 2.
The mill levy rate would be 54.78 mills, up from last year’s 52.7. The rate for the previous year, the 2007-08 budget year, was 55.12.
A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in property valuation.
Factoring into the increase in mills was the loss in state aid for occupying a new building, which was $600,000 annually the past two years for Tonganoxie Middle School. A reduction in state aid per pupil, $4,433 to $4,218, also is a factor.
Here is a breakdown of Hayden’s budget proposals:
• General fund budget, $10,444,190, a reduction of $988,000 from the previous year. The assessed valuation for the district is nearly $89,968,000. The actual valuation for 2008-09 was $90,048,489, which Hayden said was a rarity in the current economic times.
“Our assessed valuation is steady,” Hayden said. “That’s not common right now.”
• Supplemental general budget, $3,305,921, an increase of nearly $3,200. Also known as the local option budget, it is used to supplement the general fund budget. School boards are able to utilize 30 percent of the general fund budget.
• Bond and interest, $1,599,065, a decrease of $111,674. The bond issue for the new middle school, dated March 15, 2005, will be paid through Sept. 1, 2031. The mills assessed for general obligation bonds will be 10.6 mills, the same as the previous year.
• Capital outlay, $1,198,153, a reduction of $188,189 from 2008-09. This past year, the district passed a five-year resolution to increase capital outlay funding authority from 4 to 8 mills. Hayden’s proposed budget calls for a 3-mill increase to 7 mills.
“If we had to keep it at 4 mills, it would have been devastating,” Hayden said.
Hayden plans to keep expenditures at $800,000 or less to maintain a cash balance of $400,000 for next year.
• Recreation commission. The rec commission has its own budget, but the school district is used as a tax assessing entity. The 2009-10 budget will be the same as the previous year, with a total of 4 mills, 3.5 for general budget and 0.5 for employee benefits.
The district’s 2010 budget is based on enrollment of 1,800 full-time equivalent students. Kindergarten students are considered half of a student, so the FTE would be a lower number than actual enrollment. The FTE figure is what the state uses to determine per-pupil aid for public schools.
The actual FTE for the district for 2008-09 was 1,772. Hayden said there’s been a 2 to 3 percent increase each of the last few years.
The mill levy is a an increase from last year, but is slightly lower than 2007-08.
Last year, Richard Erickson, superintendent at the time, instituted a 5.23 mill reduction in the budget for the bond and interest fund to compensate for his tax filing error the previous year that cost taxpayers more than $368,000. Now special projects manager for the district, Erickson’s original plan was to repay taxpayers through three years, but in the end reduced the mills in one year.
The board approved the budget unanimously, 5-0, with Leana Leslie and Kris Grinter absent.
A budget hearing will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17 at the new venue for board meetings, the Tonganoxie High School west campus library.
Patrons may speak to the board about any questions or concerns they have with the budget during that time. Later in the meeting, the board will make a decision on the final approval of the budget.
Board members Kay Smith and Mildred McMillon commended Hayden on assembling the budget.
“It’s the easiest to read that I’ve ever witnessed,” McMillon said. “I think you did a good job.”
Council alters budget
After sharpening its pencils one more time, the Tonganoxie City Council was able to cut another $5,000 from the budget, reducing the mill levy from 35.97 to 35.83, but it doesn’t look as though it’s going to go down anymore. The cut came from a reduction to $20,000 for salary for planning services.
The previous year’s mill levy was 33.72.
During the regular city council meeting, the councilmembers and city staff went through the budget one more time discussing other possibilities to reduce the increase.
“I hate to raise taxes,” Mike Yanez, city administrator said. “We haven’t raised taxes in 10 years and now we are hit with this national crisis that nobody in this room is directly responsible for. The state of Kansas hurt us. Leavenworth County sales tax dollars are down and that is hurting us.”
For weeks the city has been trying to reduce its $1.3 million operating budget by $99,600 to keep the mill levy the same as 2009, but the city has only managed to cut $23,358 of that total to bring the budget increase to $76,242.
While various options for revenue increases, such as making prisoners pay for their jail time or cuts such as having department heads reduce their budget by another 5 percent were discussed, in the end, the councilmembers couldn’t avoid raising taxes this year.
“I think we are at the point where we are nickel and diming some of the line items when a lot of the line items are based upon the department’s history,” Yanez said. “A lot of the departments have held the line items to the same levels as 2009 for 2010 and they didn’t account for inflation. We are almost to the point where we are talking about laying off employees or cutting back on services big time. The city of Shawnee stopped plowing their residential streets. Is that something we want to do here?”
The council said the departments need to focus on becoming as efficient as possible for the remainder of this year and next year to carry over as much money as possible to help reduce taxes in future budgets.
“We do need to look at efficiency of operations to increase our carryover to 2011,” Councilmember Burdel Welsh said. “We need to investigate things like a four-day workweek to cut utility usage and think of things like that. We really need to alter our thinking and do some brainstorming and think outside the box.”
Councilmember Tom Putthoff echoed Welsh’s remarks.
“There is a difference between a want and a need and I want them to be as fiscally responsible with taxpayer money,” Putthoff said.
A public hearing on the 2010 budget will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 17 in the council chambers. At the budget meeting the council will not be able to increase the mill levy, but will still have a chance to decrease it before the budget becomes official.