This is the second of a two-part series in which the Andover American has looked at the proposed 1 percent increase in the USD 385 Local Option Budget. Last week we looked at the facts and frequently asked questions. Today we will look at issues on both sides. By doing this, we hope readers are better informed when they go to the polls Aug. 7.
USD 385 Business Manager Jim Freeman reported July 25 there would be no net property tax increase to fund the proposed LOB increase. He attributed this to final numbers from the state that show a decrease in the bond and interest levy, and an increase in state aid and tax collection.
At a July 31 community forum, Freeman said if the issue passes the mill levy would increase by 0.033 mill, and property tax would increase by 38 cents per year on a $100,000 home. However, when all factors are considered, the total mill levy for the district would decrease by 2.506 mills.
Despite this change, voters must still approve the question in order for the district to be able to increased its LOB from 30 percent to 31 percent, which is the maximum allowed under Kansas law. The increase would generate more than $433,000 in revenue and provide for the restoration of more than 40 positions.
According to USD 385, here is how the ballot will read regarding the proposed increase:
“Shall the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 385, Butler County, State of Kansas, be authorized to increase its local option budget authority by an additional 1% of its state financial aid, with the authorization to be permanent.”
To vote in favor, vote “YES” To vote against, vote “NO”
Voting “yes” will increase the LOB and allow the position restorations mentioned in last week’s Andover American; voting “no” will not.
There is one organized group of parents, Vote Yes, that has made its presence known. I spoke with two members of this group July 23.
Craig Noah is the father of a junior-to-be at Andover Central High School. Steve Hardin has an incoming sophomore at Andover High School and a seventh-grader at Andover Middle School. They took the time to explain what their group is and what they hope to accomplish.
What it is
Vote Yes is a group of parents, primarily with children in the Andover school system, organized to educate voters about the proposed LOB increase. They are doing this with a three-step process:
Campaign yard signs asking people to “Vote Yes.”
Calling people to make sure they are informed when they go to vote.
Districtwide mailer with the facts about what a yes vote will do, what the obligation is as well, and what the outcomes will be.
Page 2 of 4 - Cuts affect ratios
A lot of families move to Andover because of the quality of education. Hardin believes USD 385 can’t keep pace with other districts when it comes to classroom ratios because of its previous position cuts.
Noah agrees, saying this needs to change.
“The Budget Advisory Committee has cut way past the fat, way past the meat and in some cases cut way past the bone to continue to provide the best possible education,” he said. “We need to reverse that trend as a community … to make sure that the kids who need the help are getting it.
“And that’s on both ends of the spectrum. The ones who need more challenge than the average student, as well as the ones who need more help.”
Not just another tax
The proposed increase is a tax where voters can see directly what it’s going to cost them and where the money will go.
“That will go to pay for reinstating a lot of these positions to where we are not just excelling in science and math tests, but in every area of a well-rounded student,” Hardin said.
Outside the classroom
“Extracurricular activities keep kids focused and keep them out of trouble and keep them busy,” Hardin said. “The less sponsors and the less coaches, then the less kids you can have involved in those kinds of activities.”
Sports are an important part of a student’s preparation for life as well.
“Sports develops a confidence you can’t instill. They do things they didn’t know they could do, and that gives them the confidence to try something new or try something else,” Noah said. “I personally don’t think you can replace the team aspect of sports with anything out there. It’s relative to building trust with other people, with building accountability for your role. Those skills play directly to contributing to society.”
Both Hardin and Noah view the proposed increase as a way to provide the best possible environment for students to achieve.
“When you’re 10 through 18 years old, it shapes who you’re going to be as a young adult,” Noah said. “This (the increase) is about that period to make sure we have resources in place to develop them as young adults, both in the classroom as well as out of the classroom. It creates well-rounded citizens, well-informed citizens. I want to make sure they have the resources available to be the best they can be. “
“If your young child wants to be in drama and that’s their passion, you want to have the best support mechanism in place for them to achieve whatever their goals are. … I, as a parent, want to set them up for as much success as I can in every area that they have a passion and in the classroom,” Hardin said. “I don’t want it to be me or something that I could have done to be the reason they can’t achieve their goals.”
Page 3 of 4 - Opponents
As of July 29, neither Superintendent Mark Evans nor Business Manager Jim Freeman was aware of any organized efforts against the proposed increase.
Only a few scattered comments against the measure have been heard at the district office or voiced at the community forums.
For the most part, individual comments against the issue and the district’s responses have been as follows:
1. “The recommendation adds mostly support staff rather than teachers.”
Parental input indicated they want more technological support.
High school staff needs the tech support to implement fully the curriculum.
2. “I would rather see technology added than 35 coaches
Most of these restorations are for junior varsity and assistant coaches.
Students can learn about life from coaches as well.
Adding 35 coaches accounts for 15 percent of the $433,000 increase.
3. “Will the increased funds improve students’ scores?”
It is hoped these increases are about more than just scores.
This is about teaching students “soft skills” that won’t show up in test scores.
4. “I’m tired of paying more taxes.”
Under current state law, this would be a one-time increase.
Taxpayers would be able to see where their money is going.
The Andover American posted on its website July 20 a request for comments from voters regarding the proposed increase in the Local Option Budget. Only one comment was received as of July 29:
“Our schools have taken budget cuts several years running now. The likelihood of additional future cuts seems almost certain given the recent Kansas income tax cut. The small additional revenue from a 1% increase in the Local Option Budget will help to maintain the strong school system from which we all benefit. Our schools are the jewel in Andover's crown, drawing residents, increasing the value of our homes, and ensuring well-educated students.
“The state should be supporting all schools -- it's a constitutional mandate. But in the absence of state support, we should do what we can to keep our schools strong.”
-- Nancy Lusk
Time for action
The time to decide whether or not to approve the district’s requested increase is rapidly drawing near. If you have more questions, call either Freeman or Evans in the district office at 218-4660.
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