Tonganoxie group hopes for ‘yes’ vote in mail ballot election
About 10 Tonganoxie area residents gathered at a local residence Friday night to discuss politics.
The discussion centered at times on what’s happening in Topeka, but the focus for this group was and continues to be hyperlocal — the state of school funding.
The group is campaigning for Tonganoxie USD 464 patrons to vote yes on raising the local option budget authority from 30 to 33 mills.
Resident John Morgan posed the idea of putting the measure to a vote in light of meetings last month in which the school district eliminated a music teacher position, paraprofessional posts in the elementary school and planned to nix freshman athletics schedules during the 2015-16 school year to help combat budget issues.
“I came home and stewed on it,” Morgan said after attending a board meeting in May. “I wanted to throw it out and see how many friends believe in it.”
He said that within 48 hours there were about 200 people who, through social media, said they supported the idea.
Morgan then contacted the school board and asked that members consider putting the measure to a vote, which would require a mail-in ballot election.
The board approved moving forward with the election last month and USD 464 patrons should start to see those ballots in their mailboxes in the coming days.
Leavenworth County Clerk Janet Klasinski has said ballots should start arriving this week. Voters have until noon June 30 to return the ballots, which must be signed and have the voter’s proper address to be considered valid.
The election, which will cost the district about $10,000, is a viable option for Morgan and others in a makeshift committee that is working to get the word out in favor of the authority increase.
Jim Bothwell, who has been meeting with Morgan and others, said that no one wants taxes to increase, but with the current situation at the Statehouse, Bothwell said it’s a viable option.
“We’re just asking to keep the programs we’ve got and have the option available to the board,” Bothwell said.
He noted the increasing the LOB authority from 30 to 33 doesn’t mean the board has to authorize the entire authority.
But the state’s new block funding for public schools is hurting Tonganoxie, Bothwell said. And, if the board weren’t to have the LOB authorization this year, it wouldn’t have the option for another public vote on it until 2017.
Committee members for the yes vote said the school board has taken steps to save the district money, including approving reconfiguration of the county’s special education cooperative. The district now partners with Basehor-Linwood for that department.
If the district were to raise the LOB 1 percent, that would be an increase of $23 in annual taxes on a $150,000 home for that 1 mill. That number jumps to $46 for a 300,000 home.
If the board were to utilize the entire 3-mill authority, it would cost a homeowner $69 in additional taxes for a $150,000 home and $138 for a $300,000 home.
Asked whether the group favoring the “yes” vote is putting out yard signs, they said they were not.
Because it’s a short time for the ballots to be mailed back, the group is relying on interaction through the website, tongieschoolvote.com, its accompanying Facebook page and calling trees to get the word out.
For more information about the vote, contact Klasinski at email@example.com or 913-684-0421.