Kevin Gullett is the chief financial officer for the Leavenworth public schools. He was asked questions about the proposed 2013-2014 budget for the school district.
1 During an Aug. 6 meeting, the Leavenworth Board of Education authorized the publishing of the school district's proposed 2013-2014 budget. What happens next?
The draft 2013-2014 budget was published in the Leavenworth Times on Friday, Aug. 9. The published budget sets the hearing date as Aug. 21, and most importantly, sets the maximum amount that the Board of Education can consider when approving the final budget. The budget is not final, however, until a public hearing is held followed by an affirmative vote of at least four members of the Board of Education.
Between now and the Aug. 21 board hearing, our central office staff is available to answer taxpayer and patron inquiries concerning the budget. At the hearing, the board will accept public comment on the budget. After the conclusion of the public hearing, the board will discuss the budget in open session and either move to approve the published budget, or opt to make adjustments. Either decision will require an affirmative vote from four board members. Once the budget is approved, we’ll have about two days to file the budget with the Leavenworth county clerk and the Kansas State Department of Education.
2 The proposed budget has a 3-mill increase to the district's mill levy. What would be the financial impact for property owners in the district?
The annual cost of a 3-mill increase on a home with an appraised value of $100,000 is $34.50, or approximately $2.90 per month.
3 What is the reason for the proposed mill levy increase?
The state of Kansas had failed to adequately fund our school district and by doing so they are shifting an ever increasing tax burden on local Leavenworth taxpayers. This new funding “strategy” by the state works well in wealthier districts, but in districts like ours, it has a negative impact on our ability to adequately maintain facilities. Just four short years ago, for example, the state provided equalization aid that funded 32 percent of the revenues required for the district’s capital outlay fund with local taxpayers picking up the remaining 68 percent. Since then, the state removed equalization aid funding and placed 100 percent of the tax burden on local taxpayers.
The tax revenue generated by a 3-mill increase will go directly to the district’s capital outlay fund. Capital outlay funds may not be used to pay the salaries of district administrators, teachers or for other non-capital outlay purchases.
Our current cash balance in capital outlay is $3.8 million. For most, this sounds like a pretty healthy balance until you consider that our identified facility and technology needs over the next five years exceed $11 million. While our bond issue significantly benefited a number of our facilities, we still have three schools that were untouched and require attention. Some examples of capital outlay purchases that are anticipated in the upcoming school year include computer and projector replacements, Apple iPads and associated support equipment for Warren Middle School, concrete and asphalt projects, VCT flooring (replacing old carpet), outdoor lighting, general repairs, mechanical replacements and various security and energy management system upgrades across the district.
Page 2 of 2 - 4 During the Aug. 6 meeting, there was discussion of budgetary issues affecting the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative. What is the cooperative, and what are some of the budgetary issues facing the organization?
The Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative is responsible for providing special education services to students residing at Fort Leavenworth, Easton, Leavenworth, Lansing, Basehor and Tonganoxie. This totals over 2,200 students. The LCSEC is managed by the superintendents of the six member districts, with Leavenworth assuming responsibility for administrative and accounting support. The LCSEC has an annual budget of approximately $19.6 million and this amount is included in Leavenworth’s total published budget of $68.6 million. The ever increasing demands for special education services across the county, along with declining revenues over the past few years, has slowly eroded a large cash balance in excess of $2 million to $510,000. Costs for providing contracted specialized student care, for example, increased $493,000 during the 2012-2013 school year. For the upcoming school year, the superintendents’ agreed to fully fund the 2012-2013 level of spending. But their budget does not include any allowance for increases in contracted services or other costs, including staff raises.
5 How can people find out more information about the school district's proposed budget?
The 2013-2014 budget documents are posted on the district’s website at www.usd453.org. Also, our central office staff is available to answer questions up to and including the Aug. 21 hearing.