Patrons to vote on increase in Local Option Budget

Ryan Fullerton, JagWire news editor

The district is asking voters to authorize a change to its Local Option Budget on the Tuesday, April 2 ballot in order to replace $3 million in funding the district will be losing.

Over the last 13 years, the district has received Extraordinary Growth funding. This funding is available for districts that have student enrollment growth of 5 percent for three consecutive years and that are opening new facilities. However, the district’s growth has slowed to less than 2 percent, and no new facilities are currently being opened. Loss of Extraordinary Growth funding will result in a loss of $3 million over the next two years. If the district does not find a way to replace that funding, it would have to make decisions to cut various jobs and programs.

“A loss in funding of $3 million is truly significant for the school district,” director of administrative services and community relations Alvie Cater said. “If we were to sustain such a loss, we simply cannot continue to offer the same level of services, programs and jobs.”

To make up for the loss, the district wants to adjust its Local Option Budget, or LOB, which supplies money for the district’s day-to-day activities, from 30 percent to 31 percent. This adjustment would generate $376,000 for the district and make the district eligible for a funding source called Cost of Living. This is available for districts located in high-cost living areas, such as Johnson County. The LOB adjustment combined with the Cost of Living funding would help to offset the $3 million loss.

In the past, the district has avoided increasing the LOB to avoid using both funding source to avoid in an increase in taxes. However, an adjustment to the LOB would now cause a decrease in property taxes and will come at no extra expense for families. Rather than ask families in the district for more money, the district wants to use the Cost of Living funding solely as a replacement for the Extraordinary Growth funding.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen that before for a district to ask for an increase in the LOB without an increase in tax rates or the mill levy,” superintendent Dr. Doug Sumner said. “In essence, there’s never been an easier time to support schools.”

The district would still operate at a loss of $85,000 by drawing fewer taxes, but the district hopes to find other ways to make this up.

“We would anticipate student growth could make up this deficit,” director of finance Ken Larsen said. “If not, we would have to look elsewhere in the budget to make it up. We have not determined where that would be at this time.”

Sumner is hopeful that voters will agree with his perspective.

“You get a chance to help your schools, something we know is so important to our community, at no extra cost to yourself,” Sumner said. “In fact, you save a little money. We’re hopeful that the logic behind this measure will be recognized by the community. In my opinion, there’s no reason not to support this because it really is a win-win opportunity.”

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