Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

District looks for budget options

September 28, 2000

Lela Morley has a hard time grasping how school taxes can increase. At 79, she and her husband haven't had children in the school district for some time, but still pay taxes.

Last month, the Eudora school board approved its 2000-2001 budget.

Morley said she finds the budget unfair because it included a higher tax rate for those living in Eudora's district. Not a good sign for those living on a fixed income such as her and her husband.

"We don't have any relatives in the school system," Morley said. "I guess they need the money, but why pick on the old people? They need to pick on the people with kids in school, I guess."

For the 2000-2001 school year, the proposed general budget expenditures totaled $5,811,366, up only $139,460 from last year.

The real increase was from the local option budget, which is used to supplement the general fund. Up $373,128 from last year to $1,217,893 for 2000-2001, the district approved a mill levy tax increase of four one-half mills, the maximum allowed by the state without a public vote.

Dave Winans, superintendent, cited salary increases and health benefits available to full-time district employees for the tax increase.

"We're a labor intensive industry," Winans said. "There were salary increases and that was half of the budget. That's an easily identifiable area."

Last week, final figures for the district were in for Eudora's schools. This year's enrollment was 1133.7 and was expected to grow to 1165. Kansas uses full-time equivalency (FTE) enrollment to give per-pupil funds to school districts. It also gives half an FTE credit for students with special needs and kindergartners. With 33 less students than expected, Eudora's school district will fall short $220,000 from this year's budget. Projections are made every year by looking at enrollment trends over a 15-year period. Winans said there would be a reduction in some programs within the district. However, he's uncertain which will feel the pinch. Salaries and textbooks are committed expenditures, but spending could be withheld on items not yet purchased.

"It's too soon for me to say," he said. "We're purposely looking at every alternative and then prioritize them. The only potential areas in reduction are in expenditures that are planned but not made. We would have to withhold spending one-third of what's available."

Winans said though the district could have "played it safe" and projected for less students. If the number were exceeded, the district would only receive money for the projected amount of students.

"It is fair to the taxpayer," he said. "It really would make the (public) hearing process meaningless."

Eudora resident Harold Cannon doesn't agree with the district providing health insurance for teachers. Cannon has grandchildren at Eudora West Elementary and Nottingham Elementary, but said he believes teachers should pay their own way.

"They do hard work, but I'm not in favor of the school paying for it," Cannon said. "That's the way it goes, they pass the rules and regulations and we pay for it."

Capital outlay budget money for the district remained the same for the new year at $1,420,011. Capital outlay money is used for purchases such as new school buses and maintaining facilities. Capital outlay generates approximately $160,000 a year for the district and can accumulate from year to year.

Winans said frugal use of capital outlay funds over time has produced a nice surplus, which will aid the district in the future.

"This district has been prudent in the use of its funds so there is a healthy balance," Winans said.

Board member Carlie Abel was the only vote against the 2000-2001 budget.

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