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Board hopes voters approve LOB increase

5/15/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The Hays USD 489 Board of Education is asking patrons to dig into their wallets.

Qualified voters in the school district will be asked by mail ballot to approve an increase in the local option budget.

The current 30-percent LOB is estimated to raise $5,951,709.

Based on the school finance law recently passed by the state Legislature, "we'd lose $7,000 basically in our LOB," Superintendent Dean Katt said at the work session last week. "If we did nothing, the mill levy would go down 0.54 mills."

Property taxes on a $100,000 home in the USD 489 district would decrease by $62.10 for that year if the LOB remains unchanged.

"What we're asking then in our LOB election is to go to 31 percent," Katt said.

"If we go to 31 percent, we will not see the tax decrease, and for a $100,000 home, they would see a yearly increase of $2.30," said Tracy Kaiser, executive director of finances and support services.

That is a new title for Kaiser, formerly the district business manager.

That was based on industry standards, "because we had a manager overseeing directors, so that's why we thought the (business manager) title wasn't appropriate," Kaiser said.

BOE president Greg Schwartz said the board reviewed the title change, and there is no change in Kaiser's salary.

If the 1-percent LOB increase is approved, the board "can raise it up to 33 (percent) by vote of the board," Schwartz said at the work session. "I kind of assume that we would seriously entertain that in that first year.

"I think we need to be open and up front about that, too, if we think we're going to do that. The last thing we want to do is have people think it's going to be 31, and then we do a sleight of hand and now it's going to be 33."

"For every percent we raise, it would be $65.55 per year on a $100,000 home," Kaiser said.

Beginning with the base increase of $2.30 for 31 percent if voters approved, an increase to 32 percent would mean a yearly increase of $67.85. If the LOB is 33 percent, property taxes would increase $133.40 on a $100,000 home.

Each 1-percent increment increase would raise approximately $198,175 for the district. A 3-percent increase in the LOB would add $594,525 to the district budget, according to information prepared by USD 489.

Verbal consensus of the board last week was if the 1-percent increase passes, it likely would approve the increase to 33 percent.

After the first year, the additional 2-percent increase would have to go to a vote to continue.

We'll have "very little success of passing this if we can't identify ... where we're going to spend it," Schwartz said.

The money will be spent for "the best education our kids deserve," Marty Patterson said.

Administrators recommend using any additional money in the budget to reduce class sizes for grades K-6.

"This is a priority. If there's 28 (students) in a third-grade class, we need to do something about that," Katt said.

The board agreed reducing class sizes was a priority, and any increase approved by voters should be used for that. However, money from the additional 2 percent -- which can be approved by the board for only one year -- shouldn't be used for ongoing expenses such as teachers' salaries, several board members agreed.

"That could fund some reserve," said newly appointed board member Sarah Rankin.

Mail ballots are expected to be delivered by the Ellis County Clerk's office to the Hays Post Office on June 10. They are due in the clerk's office by noon June 27.

If the increase is approved, the money would apply for the 2014-15 school year, Kaiser said.

An election to raise the LOB to 31 percent in April 2009 failed by a margin of nearly 2-to-1.