Board approves budget

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Leavenworth Board of Education members have approved the school district's budget for the 2021-2022 school year.

Board members approved the $69.5 million budget following a couple of public hearings Monday.

They first conducted a hearing regarding their intent to exceed what is considered the school district's revenue neutral rate.

This means the district will collect more in property taxes for the 2021-2022 budget year than the previous year.

The school district, as well as other local taxing entities, use mills in determining property taxes.

The 2021-2022 budget for the Leavenworth public schools has a total mill levy of 57.358 mills. This is a slight increase, in terms of mills, from the levy of 57.329 for the previous school year.

But even with a flat mill levy, the school district would exceed its revenue neutral rate because of increases in property valuation.

Remaining revenue neutral for the 2021-2022 budget year would have required a mill levy of 53.885 mills, according to Beth Mattox, chief financial officer for the school district.

No one from the audience spoke during Monday's public hearing for the revenue neutral hearing. Following this hearing, board members approved a resolution regarding the district exceeding the revenue neutral rate. The resolution was approved 6-1 with board member Mike Carney voting against it.

Board members then had separate public hearing on the budget.

During this hearing, former school district employee Kevin Gullett suggested using money from the district's capital outlay fund to pay for a training facility for the Junior ROTC program at Leavenworth High School.

Gullett said the JROTC program is exploding.

"We know all of the great things they've done," he said.

Gullett said the school district used the capital outlay fund to pay for a new baseball and softball complex. He said the district could fund a JROTC facility the same way without raising taxes.

Board Vice President Mike Powell expressed support for Gullett's idea.

"I think you're right on the mark," Powell said.

He said about 30% of Leavenworth High School students participate in the JROTC program.

At the conclusion of the hearing, board members unanimously approved the 2021-2022 budget.

They took no action on Gullett's proposal. But Superintendent Mike Roth said there has been preliminary work related to a possible JROTC facility.

The superintendent said he has been in contact with an architectural firm to see if there is an area at the high school campus that could house a facility.

In other business

The Leavenworth Board of Education:

• Approved a contract with Easton Bus Service for the 2021-2022 school year for $798,976. The district contracts with the company for busing services. Superintendent Mike Roth said the district will receive $378,460 in state funding to help pay for student transportation.

• Approved a settlement with Symmetry Energy Solutions regarding the district's natural gas bill for February.

The school district had been involved in a legal coalition for a lawsuit concerning a spike in natural gas prices during extremely cold weather in February.

According to Roth, the district was charged $115,628 for natural gas in February. The district normally is charged between $18,000 and $21,000 for natural gas during the month of February.

Board members previously voted to pay $27,233 for natural gas service for last February.

As part of the settlement, board members agreed Monday to pay an additional $25,329.