Late information from school board reveals that a 1 percent increase in its Local Option Budget would not increase property taxes as originally throught.
In a two-part series, the Andover American will look at the proposed 1 percent increase in the USD 385 Local Option Budget (LOB). This week we will look at how this request came to be and some frequently asked questions. On Aug. 2, we will look at concerns on both sides of the issue. By doing this, we hope our readers will be better informed when they go to the polls Aug. 7.
Cuts in state aid
The state of Kansas has cut its aid to all school districts for a number of years. According to USD 385 Business Manager Jim Freeman, Andover’s cuts have totaled $4.5 million during the past three years. That translates into the loss of 133 positions -- 44 teacher, administrators and other classified positions; and 89 coaching/activity sponsor positions.
Instigation of action
The proposed increase isn’t being driven by either administrators or teachers, according to Superintendent Mark Evans. He said during the past three years, parents consistently approached the district about restoring lost positions using alternative funding, either privately or through nontraditional means.
“We have a lot of well-meaning and involved parents who believe these things are very important,” Evans said during a June interview. “But funding a position privately opens the door to issues that using normal methods of funding would prevent.”
In a July 20 interview, he explained that when parents inquired, the board told them it was not able to do anything on its own.
“But if you want us to, we could have an election, and you’d get to decide,” Evans said they told parents. “The parents said ‘Please, would you allow voters to restore some of these cuts?’”
The proposed increase would generate $433,382 in additional revenue for the restoration of specific positions at different levels within the district.
At a community forum in June, Freeman explained that the district’s operating budget – the amount of money it takes for them to educate the children – comes from state aid and property taxes. He said that 30 percent is the average LOB among school boards statewide, although a handful is at 31 percent.
No cost to taxpayer
Originally the proposed increase would have increased property tax by approximately one-half mill, or an increase of 50 cents per month on a $100,000 house.
However, Freeman advised the American on July 25 there would be no increase for taxpayers.
“There will actually be a 2.5 mill decrease in total school taxes even with the proposed LOB increase due to a decrease in the bond and interest levy,” Freeman said. “The decrease is also a result of additional state aid and an increase in tax collections.”
Developing this proposal presented its own set of challenges.
“It was almost as hard to decide what to add back as it was to decide what to cut over the past several years,” Evans has said on more than one occasion.
The board’s Budget Advisory Committee -- consisting of administrators, teachers, parents, students and community members – developed the suggested restorations, which were fine-tuned by district administrators.
The committee tried to come up with what would be best for the district as a whole, considering the needs at all levels of education, both academically and athletically.
Evans said if everyone were to develop such a “wish list” of his or her own, no two lists would be the same.
“We understand that no matter what you decide, someone would rather we put (in) this restoration versus that restoration,” he said. “That’s pretty natural and inherent.”
Facts about the proposal
The district created the following fact sheet, which is available to the public at the district office. (A reference to a property tax increase was deleted.)
1. Andover Public Schools has cut more than $4.5 million in the last four years. This increase in the LOB would allow restoration of a portion of those cuts. The Board of Education has approved a list of restorations that was developed by the Budget Advisory Committee and district administrators. These restorations, if the LOB increase is approved, would include:
Teaching staff: $228,310 (53% of the increase)Reduce elementary class sizes by restoring two elementary teachers Restore one half-time math assistant or at-risk teacher at each high school Partially restore contract extensions for secondary school counselors Restore one half-time instructional aide at each elementary school Restore one instructional technology coach
Instructional support: $118,392 (27% of the increase)Add one half-time administrative assistant position at each high school Restore elementary school administrative assistants to full time
Coaches and activity sponsors: $66,810 (15% of the increase)Restore 35 positions Baseball (AHS, ACHS) Bowling (AHS, ACHS) Cheer (AHS, ACHS, AMS, ACMS) Debate (AHS, ACHS) Drama (AHS, ACHS) Flag team (AHS, ACHS) Football (AHS, ACHS, AMS, ACMS) Softball (AHS, ACHS) Wrestling (AHS, ACHS) Basketball (AMS, ACMS) Tennis (AMS, ACMS) Volleyball (AMS, ACMS) Cross country (ACMS)
District maintenance: $20,000 (5% of the increase)Restore one half-time grounds keeping position
2. (paragraph deleted)
3. All revenue generated by the LOB will stay in the Andover school district, keeping local monies local.
The board has developed the following list of Frequently Asked Questions, which is also available at the district office:
Doesn’t the school district already receive Local Option Budget funding?
Yes, the district has utilized the maximum authority allowed by law through the local option budget – 30%. The additional 1% will help the district to maintain current levels of educational excellence. State law requires a public vote to increase the LOB to 31%.
What if the vote doesn’t pass?
In that case, the Board of Education will have some difficult budget decisions to make in the next couple of years. State cuts to education have resulted in $4.5 million in cuts in our school district alone over the last four years. Without the additional money from the 1% increase in the LOB, it will be unlikely that the district will be able to make these restorations.
Doesn’t the state already fund the school district?
Yes, the state provides $3,838 in Base State Aid Per Pupil. This funding is around the same amount from the year 2000 thanks to cuts over the last 4 years. At the same time, school district responsibilities and standards continue to grow.
Shouldn’t we ask for a higher percentage of the LOB in this election?
Under current legislation, the district is capped at 31%.
The LOB is at 30% - but 30% of what?
The Local Option Budget is 30% of the district’s General Fund Budget. The state’s formula determines how much funding the district receives from the state. They have also given districts the opportunity for additional funding through the Local Option Budget. Andover taxpayers are supporting the general fund budgets outside of the district. Through its funding formula, the state provides a basic education. Andover parents and community members want an exemplary education for their children.
Will this additional funding lower class size or district fees?
The Board of Education has voted on a list of proposed budget restorations should the vote pass. A list of these is above.
Is this a permanent tax increase?
When will Andover have enough funding?
State cuts to education have resulted in $4.5 million in cuts in our school district alone over the last four years. We are not close to recouping those funds. For a number of years, our budget actually decreased even though we were educating more students. This is why we were forced to make budget cuts, and why we are asking voters to consider an LOB increase.
Why is this election only in Andover?
Each school district has the opportunity to bring this question before the voters. Andover has decided to use the August primary election to pose this question to our community. Other districts may choose different timing.
What is the total dollar amount of the LOB?
The LOB budget for 2011-2012 was approximately $8.7 million.
Why not spend all of the increase on teachers?
All of our employees are a vital part of the education process for Andover students. Many of the potential restored positions support teachers, students and the classroom in other ways. The decisions for suggested restorations were made by administrators after a committee made up of community members, teachers, students, administrators and others suggested specific areas for restorations. The Board of Education approved the list of restorations at the June 11 meeting.
Who decided what restorations should be made if the LOB increase passes?
The Budget Advisory Committee, which is made up of parents, community members, teachers, students, administrators and others, recommended areas in which restorations should be made. Administrators then met to decide upon specific positions in those areas. The Board of Education then approved this list at the June 11 meeting. While more positions may be reflected in the coach and activity sponsors category, this represents only approximately 15 percent of the proposed $433,000 in restorations.
If the LOB passes, the increase will be in the 2012-13 budget.
A final community forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 31 at Meadowlark Elementary, and the election is Tuesday, Aug. 7. If you have other questions, please contact either Evans or Freeman by calling the district office at 218-4660.
Next week we will look at concerns on both sides of the issue.