USD 256 considers tax increase



March 3, 2010 - 12:00 AM

MORAN — Marmaton Valley USD 256 could face a loss of up to $300,000 in its  2010-11 budget if legislators don’t raise money to deal with a revenue shortfall in Topeka that is approaching $500 million.
“We’ve absorbed the $123,000 state aid cut we got in November and will have to deal with that again next school year,” Nancy Meyer told board members and about 60 patrons attending a public forum here Tuesday night.
If basic state aid per pupil is cut to $3,726, from $4,012 at the start of this school year, Marmaton Valley schools would lose another $175,000, Meyer said.
The district does have a card tucked up its sleeve, though playing it would impact local taxpayers.
Marmaton Valley has exercised just over a third of it local option budget authority and has enough left to make up the projected state aid loss. Doing so would require a property tax levy of about 10 mills.
Triggering the higher levy — the district’s total this year is just under 38 mills — was looked on favorably by several patrons during the forum. Only a couple encouraged deep cuts to programs or staff layoffs.
Board President Patti Boyd noted that a patrons’ committee recommended raising the LOB levy by 5 to 10 mills and “I heard a lot of support here tonight for a levy increase.”
Without the additional tax money, Meyer warned that teachers would be furloughed, athletic programs would suffer and “you will be looking at classes of 36 students.”
“Everyone is feeling stressed because its their kids” who will suffer if cuts of substance have to be made, Boyd noted.
Meyer blamed political maneuvering of legislators for the financial anxiety.
“It’s scary, because they’re dealing with children,” Meyer said of the legislature’s reluctance to raise tobacco taxes or the state sales tax by 1 cent, which together Gov. Mark Parkinson predicted would deal with state shortfalls.
Meyer encouraged patrons to write their legislators, Rep. Bill Otto and Sen. Derek Schmidt, and all others in the state.
“I have a list of their addresses,” she announced, cautioning those who do correspondent to do so in a personal fashion.
“We’ve been told they throw away form letters.”

UNCERTAINTY over the cuts has caused considerable stress for the district’s staff and board members, Boyd, said.
“We haven’t even offered contracts to administrators yet,” she said, a task usually completed early in the spring semester.
Boyd also has fielded questions about consolidation, although, she said, “that’s not an immediate concern.”
Gene Covey, a former board member who remembers the angst of the mid-1960s consolidation that closed Elsmore schools, said he thought some form of consolidation was inevitable.
“It was ugly in 1966,” but with forethought such transition could be smoother today, he said.
Covey opined that consolidation might be an ulterior motive of legislators. He suggested board member take the lead and discuss consolidation with Humboldt or Uniontown districts.
Meyer offered that such conversations had occurred, though they were very preliminary and cursory in nature.

OTHERS WEIGHED in during the 90-minute meeting.
John Booth said “a lot of cuts need to be made before you raise taxes. We’re already taxed to death.”
Gloria Gardner disagreed.
She favored “taking a few more tax dollars out of our pockets” to keep Marmaton Valley students in a small school environment, noting that was the appeal of living in Moran.
Among ideas being considered is a four-day school week.
Jim Smart said he had had conversations with patrons of Southern Coffey County schools (Le Roy-Gridley), where a four-day week started in January. Smart said he learned some money had been saved by having teachers administer buildings instead of principals, but that students often were at schools on Fridays for activities, which eliminated savings inherent to the shorter week.

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