Purchase photos

Officials say LOB hike could help

4/18/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Nearly 14,200 qualified voters in Hays USD 489 will have a chance to decide in June whether to increase the local option budget from 30 percent to 31 percent.

The board of education called a special meeting during their Monday night work session in order to vote for a resolution to authorize a mail ballot election for the 1-percent LOB increase.

If approved by the voters, the increase would mean an additional $37.95 property taxes assessed on a $100,000 house, according to information from the school district.

The school district is facing an estimated shortfall of $1.3 million next year, and the "roughly $200,000" the 1-percent increased LOB would raise could be used to offset some fee increases, Superintendent Dean Katt said Monday night.

The district also has put 16 teachers on notice their contracts might not be renewed in a staff reduction move.

"We're trying to save some teachers' positions and eliminate big classes," said Marty Patterson, BOE member.

Approximately a dozen teachers are leaving on their own accord, so teacher cuts might not be needed, said Kim Schneweis, Hays-NEA president.

Schneweis said she's glad the district is taking the LOB increase to a vote.

"We can make cuts, but we need to look for revenues," she said.

Estimated cost of the mail-in election is $20,000, Katt said.

"The money (to pay for the election) would come out of the general fund or supplemental general, probably out of board expense," Katt said.

The tentative date for the ballots to go to the post office is June 10, Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus said.

Ballots will be sent to registered voters' addresses. They aren't forwarded, so anyone who's moved or changed their name should update their voter registration.

The names of anyone who has not voted in the last two general elections are removed from the voters' rolls, Maskus said.

Voters not sure of their status can call the county clerk's office to verify the information.

Registration books close 21 days prior to election, so voters who need to register or re-register must do so by June 6.

Ballots, which include return postage, must be received in the Ellis County Clerk's office by noon June 27.

"Anything returned after that will not be opened," Maskus said.

Because it is a mail ballot, qualified voters must sign at the designated place, and the signatures will be verified by the clerk's office.

The last mail ballot election in Ellis County was a retail sales tax question in 1997, Maskus said.

"Mail ballot elections have better turn out," Maskus said.

USD 489 voters went to the polls April 7, 2009, to vote on a 1-percent increase in the LOB for two years for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. The additional money was to be used for student instruction. The measure failed by a vote of 2,143 to 1,069, Maskus said.

* * *

If USD 489 voters pass a 1-percent increase in the local option budget, it could clear the way for an additional 2-percent increase in the LOB without public approval.

According to a Kansas Association of School Boards analysis and position paper, the recently passed school finance bill, HB 2506, that's been sent to the governor, includes changes in the LOB election requirements.

For the 2014-15 school year, only school districts that have adopted an LOB of more than 30 percent on or before June 30 "may adopt a second resolution in an amount not to exceed 2 percent by board action only." The resolution expires June 30, 2015.

If the 1 percent LOB increase passes, and the USD 489 board chooses to pass a resolution increasing the LOB further, the USD 489 LOB could increase from 30 percent to 33 percent. The additional 2-percent increase would not have to be approved by voters. After the June 30, 2015, expiration, a mail ballot election would be required to exceed an LOB of 30 percent, according to the KASB.