Board raises levy cap

By Bethany Knipp

USD 383 school board members voted 5-2 Wednesday to increase the district’s authority to raise money locally for its capital outlay budget from a 6-mill levy to 8 mills.

The move only sets the limit for how much revenue USD 383 can generate for capital outlay expenses, which pay for long-term investments for things like computers and the maintenance of school buildings.

The authority applies from the 2014-15 school year until the 2018-19 academic year.

The board will set the actual mill levy in August. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value.

The original authority proposal was to raise the district’s authority to 7 mills instead of 8, but some board members wondered why the school board would limit itself — especially because the Kansas Legislature lets the state’s school districts go up to an 8-mill limit already.

“Since we’re not actually setting (the mill levy), why not go to 8?” board member Aaron Estabrook asked. “Why are we limiting ourselves before we get there?”

Superintendent Bob Shannon said the idea with the 7-mill authority was to keep it in line with what the mill levy was already. He said the lower limit was a way to be “cautious with folks in the community.”

USD 383 director of business services Lew Faust said the board hasn’t previously used its maximum authority to keep local property taxes as low as possible.

“In an effort to try and manage the mill levy, districts have not always used the full authority of that,” Faust said.

Compared with the current 6-mill levy, if the board were to use its full authority of 8 mills come an August decision, a property owner with a home valued at $100,000 would pay $94.12 in taxes for the capital outlay portion of the bill, up from $70.59.

That’s an increase of $23.53.

The figure accounts for a 2.3-percent average change in property value.

Board member Marcia Rozell said the 8-mill authority would give the board more flexibility without having to pass another resolution to increase its authority later.

“As long as we’re not voting on what the mill levy will be I’m comfortable with the 8,” Rozell said.

Board President Curt Herrman said he was comfortable with setting the authority at 7 to avoid confusion about the issue, having people think that the mill levy would be set higher than it might actually be.

Estabrook disagreed about the number.

“I feel better about giving the budget the biggest option now and not turning the one-mill decision between 7 and 8 into a political storm later at the end when we should have that authority by statute already,” Estabrook said.

During the vote, board member Darell Edie and Herrman opposed the measure.

The board also unanimously approved a proposal to increase the price of school lunches by 10 cents to keep up with rising food prices and meet Equity in School Lunch Pricing provisions that help schools get money to serve students who are eligible for free lunches.

The 10-cent increase does not apply to school breakfast for students, but it brings lunch prices to $2.55 for elementary students, $2.70 for secondary students and $3.50 for adults for the 2014-15 school year.

The Manhattan High School Forensics team also was recognized for its Kansas 6A championship.

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