The Manhattan-Ogden school board gave final approval to the $106.8 million budget for the 2019-20 school year after a public hearing Wednesday evening.
At the five-minute public hearing immediately before the board’s regular meeting, no one spoke before the board, and the board later passed the budget 6-0 with little comment. Board member Dave Colburn was absent from the meeting.
With Wednesday’s vote, the property tax rate will go up 5.329 mills to 62.118 mills. A mill is a dollar in property tax for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. Comparatively, Manhattan city commission approved a 49.761 mill levy rate Tuesday, and the Riley County commission passed a 43.065 mill levy in late July.
The school property tax change means that a homeowner who paid $607.07 in school property taxes for a $100,000 home in 2019 will pay $673.36 in taxes for a $100,700 home in 2020, based on a 0.7% increase in the value of an average, single-family home in Riley County. That’s an increase of $66.28 or 10.92%.
The increase largely stems from a 7.777 mill increase in the district’s bond and interest fund to start paying off $129.5 million in bonded construction projects that voters approved in November.
Without that increase, district officials said they would have proposed a 2.451-mill decrease. That’s because the state government is providing more money, reducing the need for local property taxes.
School budgeting follows a different process than budgeting for other local entities.
In the interest of leveling K-12 education funding for students across the state regardless of the relative wealth of their district, the state caps each district’s general fund property tax levy at 20 mills. Homeowners get a $20,000 exemption in their property values from this specific mill levy.
In turn, the state collects the revenue from those 20 mills and distributes funding to districts in equal amounts per student, also known as base funding per pupil. This school year, the state will allocate $4,436 per pupil, which is a significant increase from previous years following a protracted lawsuit from school districts against the state over what constituted adequate and equitable funding.
Taking into account variances in funding needs for services like special education, transportation or at-risk student education, each district is also allowed to adjust their full-time enrollment figure using formulas distributed by the state.
The Manhattan-Ogden school district’s adjustment was from 6,436.4 full-time enrollment to a 10,200.9 weighted full-time enrollment, resulting in a $46.1 million general budget.
School districts, however, are also allowed to implement what’s called a local option budget, or supplemental budget fund, that comes from a separate mill levy. This budget is capped at 33% percent of the general fund budget by state law.
Manhattan-Ogden’s local option budget stands at $15.3 million, funded from a 15.082 mill levy, which is a decrease of 2.593 mills from the 2018-19 school year.
In total, the school district’s budget authority is set at $61.3 million. The remainder of the $106.8 million budget comes from non-property tax revenues. Those include state and federal funding sources, as well as district fees for things like textbooks and school lunches.
Lew Faust, director of business services, said it’s been the district’s practice to overbudget each school year, in case of any unexpected costs or purchases the district might see over the course of the year. He expects the district’s actual expenditures to be around $101 million during the school year.
During the budgeting process, the board approved a 6.5% total compensation package increase for the district’s teachers, classified staff and administrators. The increase was determined by the raise the district negotiated with Manhattan-Ogden’s chapter of the National Educator’s Association. Faust said the raises amount to about $2.5 million in new expenses.
The state Legislature provided additional funding with the intent for districts to prioritize teachers’ pay and at-risk student funding.
District officials previously said they wanted to increase pay for classified employees to what they said would be a more competitive level around the region.
In the past two years, teachers received a raise of 3.88% for the 2017-18 school year and 4.32% for 2018-19.
Superintendent Marvin Wade also presented the district’s four-year strategic action plan, which outlines its goal to prepare students for success in school and in the workforce.
The plan will use students’ scores on state assessments to measure the district’s success. The plan also outlines the district’s goal to increase Manhattan High School’s graduation rate from 83% to 95% by the 2022-23 school year.
Board member Jurdene Coleman questioned why the graduation rate goal couldn’t be set at 100%.
Board member Darell Edie pushed back on the higher figure, as he said there are students who don’t want to graduate.
Coleman said that was a “gross misrepresentation” of students who come from more challenging backgrounds, but voted to accept the plan with the rest of the board.