257 lowers tax rate, expects grants for programs


Local News

August 14, 2018 - 11:21 AM

Budget news rarely comes with a smile and sigh of relief, but that’s how Iola’s USD 257 board members took the news Monday evening. The school district’s tax rate will drop significantly this year — nearly 3 mills — and they’ll still be able to pay for all of their needs, with a likelihood of grants and donations to expand programs and training.
“Anytime you can see valuation going up and a mill decrease, it’s good news for our taxpayers,” USD 257 Superintendent Stacey Fager told the board.
“And we’re still funding everything,” board president Dan Willis said. “The budget authority is there.”
“And we’re even trying to increase some of the things we feel are important for the district,” Fager added.
The district expects to spend nearly $24.28 million in the 2018-19 school year, up from last year’s $20.01 million and $19.9 million two years ago. Most of the budget is funded by the state and other sources; just $2.18 million will come directly from local taxpayers. That’s lower than last year’s $2.27 million and about the same as two years ago.
In recent years, the district’s tax rate has dropped thanks to increases in the county’s total assessed valuation, which is the value given to local properties for taxing purposes. The assessed valuation grew from $51.29 million two years ago to $52.17 million last year and $53.12 million this year. That means taxes are spread out over a larger pool, at a lower rate, to raise the same amount of money.
The tax levy for next year’s budget will drop by 2.832 mills compared to last year. The total tax levy is 43.532, down from last year’s levy of 46.364. The levy includes 20 mills in the “Local Option Budget (LOB),” an amount assessed to all districts as required by the state; and 15.532 mills as part of a supplemental LOB. It also includes 8 mills for capital outlay projects.
Most of the district’s expenses were kept fairly close to last year, Fager told the board. Some areas that saw increases came because of changes to the driver’s education and food services programs.
Costs for professional development training and parent education programs also are expected to increase but most of that will come from a grant.
The district expects to receive more than $587,272 from gifts and grants, significantly more than last year’s $56,723. Much of that would go to expand the Regional Rural Technical Center, in particular a new wind farm training course. Fager said he included what he expects the district to receive as grants, which may not materialize. By including the amount in the budget, the district will have the authority to spend the money if it comes through.
“I like the way we’ve become entrepreneurial where we could, with the tech ed and the Career & Technical Education pathways and the virtual school. I like to see the preschool growing as well,” Willis said.
The board will meet at 6 p.m. Aug. 27 for a public hearing with taxpayers before they give final approval to the budget. The budget is published on Page A3 of this edition.


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