The vote was not unanimous. But the Leavenworth Board of Education has approved a budget for the 2013-2014 school year.
The $68.6 million budget includes a 3-mill increase to the district's tax levy. This means the owner of the owner of a $150,000 home in the school district will pay an additional $51.75 per year in property taxes.
Wednesday night's vote for the budget was 4-3 with board members Mike Carney, Nancy Klemp and Loyal Torkelson voting against it.
Kevin Gullett, chief financial officer for the district, said the money collected from the mill levy increase will go into the district's capital outlay fund. He said this money only can be used for things such as maintenance and construction. He said it also can be used to purchase things such as security equipment. It cannot be used to pay for salaries for teachers or administrators.
Gullett argued the 3-mill increase was needed to pay for facility and technology expenses. Without the mill increase, he said, the district would have to make drastic cuts to facilities.
The vote to approve the budget followed a public hearing. Two members of the audience addressed the board during the hearing.
One of the speakers, Charles Raney, said he was speaking on behalf of a group of taxpayers who'd contacted him. He read what he said were notes from fellow residents. One of the comments he read argued that school achievement is not improving despite the taxes being paid to support education.
Reading another comment, Raney said the board members work for the local residents and taxpayers, and voters want money to be spent wisely.
Harry Dempsey also spoke to board members. He said he's retired with a fixed income.
"I'm sort of perplexed at where I'm at," he said. "Do I stay or do I leave?"
He said the board could run into a situation in which people flee the community because of taxes.
Carney said he's against the district's local option budget, which he said the state pushes on the schools.
"I've always been against it, and I'm going to vote against it," he said.
Board member Verna Raines said the Leavenworth district doesn't have a lot of extras. She said the mill levy proposed in the budget would maintain what the district has.
Board Vice President Marti Crow said board members have to take into consideration the welfare of students in Leavenworth who have to compete with students from other districts who have more access to technology and smaller class sizes.
She said board members have to make hard decisions.
Klemp, who is the board president, said there currently is $3.8 million in the capital outlay fund. Even without a mill levy increase, there will be money left in the fund after the district spends an estimated $1.55 million this year for facilities and technology.
Page 2 of 2 - Klemp recommended that board members review the budget during the school year, looking for areas where money can be saved. She said savings could be earmarked for capital outlay.
She suggested forming a budget committee.
"I think we need to be a little better educated as board members," she said.
Torkelson said he feels there is money in the district's general fund that can be transferred to avoid the need for the 3-mill increase. He said he might support a 1-mill increase.
"I cannot vote for 3 mills," he said.
Board member Paul Kittle said he doesn't think the district can defer maintenance or security measures.
"I think we have to have a mill rate increase," he said.
He said the primary mission of the board is to do what's right for children.
Board member Doug Darling said construction costs continue to go up. And delaying a project will cause it to be more expensive in the future.
"We can't spend the capital reserve fund down to zero," he said.