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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Finance bill could result in property tax relief

  • Leavenworth taxpayers could see a tax cut as a result of a school finance bill passed over the weekend by state legislators.
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    • Story at a glance ...

      • A school finance bill passed Sunday by the Kansas Legislature could result in lower property taxes for local residents.


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      Story at a glance ...

      • A school finance bill passed Sunday by the Kansas Legislature could result in lower property taxes for local residents.



      • The bill was a response to a Kansas Supreme Court decision.



      • The bill would result in some funding decreases for the Leavenworth school district.



      • Teachers are expressing concerns about provisions that would remove due process for educators who are terminated.



       

  • Leavenworth taxpayers could see a tax cut as a result of a school finance bill passed over the weekend by state legislators.
    But, Kevin Gullett, chief financial officer for Leavenworth public schools, said it appears the district will lose funding because of the bill.
    Teachers also have raised concerns about provisions concerning the removal of due process for educators.
    The school finance bill was approved Sunday in both the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives. The legislation was a response to a Kansas Supreme Court decision released last month that found state funding had failed to provide equity in public education in some areas.
    Gov. Sam Brownback released a statement Sunday that thanked legislators for their work on the bill. 
    The governor also stated the bill exceeds requirements of the court ruling. But, the governor did not state whether he planned to sign the bill into law.
    Gullett said the district's mill levy for property taxes could be reduced by a few mills for the next school year as a result of the bill.
    That's because the state would be contributing more in its share of funding for what is known as the Local Option Budget. This means fewer local property tax dollars may be required to fund the LOB.
    The bill also would provide more than $180,000 in state aid for capital outlay funding for the Leavenworth district.
    Gullett said the money only can be used for things such as building maintenance or equipment purchases.
    The bill also will increase base funding the state pays for each student. It will increase by $14 per student.
    "We had planned for that," Gullett said.
    He said the bill eliminates non-proficient at-risk weighting, which is money the district has received in the past based on the number of students who struggle on state assessments.
    This weighting provided $41,067 in funding to the school district for the current school year.
    "Next year, that goes away," he said.
    He said the bill also eliminates virtual school weighting for calculating the Local Option Budget, which will contribute to an anticipated decrease in the LOB for the next school year.
    The bill would allow districts to increase a percentage rate used to calculate the local option budget, but it would require voter approval through a mail ballot election.
    The Leavenworth district is at the maximum percentage allowed under current law. 
    Gullett said the district would be unable to increase the rate for the next school year even if the provision of the school finance bill becomes law. That's because there wouldn't be enough time to have a mail ballot election before the budget has to be put together.
    Mike Roth will take over this summer as superintendent of Leavenworth public schools.
    Page 2 of 2 - Roth, who is currently serving as superintendent of the Clearwater school district, said Monday he had not yet studied how the bill would impact Leavenworth, but he expressed concern about some portions of the legislation, including the elimination of the virtual school weighting.
    "There are some things that you have to be careful of," he said.
    Roth said the inclusion of provisions that reportedly would take away due process for teachers who are being terminated took him by surprise.
    "I did not know it was going to be thrown in there," he said.
    Ginger Riddle, a co-president of the Leavenworth National Education Association, said teachers are disappointed about the passage of the provisions concerning due process.
    She said a teacher who is being dismissed should be given a reason for the termination and an opportunity to have a hearing to ensure the reason is valid.
    Riddle said teachers from Leavenworth and Lansing were in Topeka over the weekend as lawmakers debated and ultimately passed the bill.
    Easton Superintendent Chuck Coblentz said the bill also would allow property tax relief for people in his district. The bill also would result in additional capital outlay funding for the Easton schools. And, the district would receive a small amount of "new" money in funding for its general fund.
    Lansing Superintendent Randy Bagby could not be immediately reached Monday.
     

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