Three districts aim to increase LOB authority

? Patrons will decide issue by mail-in ballot.

Three school districts in Marion County have requested special mail-ballot elections to raise their local option budget.

A local option budget is funding that is raised by local property taxes for school districts. The idea behind local option budgets is to give districts and voters some local control over school funding.

Unified School District 410-Hillsboro mailed its ballots to registered voters April 13, USD 398-Peabody-Burns mailed its ballots April 17 and USD 411-Goessel will be mailing its ballots April 24.

The ballots must arrive at the office of Marion County Clerk Tina Spencer by noon on the election day designated for each school district.

Hillsboro ballots must be in by April 28, Peabody-Burns ballots are due May 5 and Goessel ballots must arrive by May 12.

State approval

Spencer said in order to hold a mail-ballot election, special permission must be granted by the Secretary of State?s office.

A mail-ballot election plan has to be submitted to Spencer?s office at least 60 days prior to the requested election date.

?The plan is very detailed and outlines timelines, printed materials, procedures, publications, etc., for every aspect of the election,? she said.

?The plans I developed and submitted were about 45 pages for each election,? Spencer added. ?We have received approval for all three of the mail ballot election plans we have submitted so far.?

Varying circumstances

The circumstances vary for the three schools participating in a mail-in ballot vote.

Until last year, the size of a district?s LOB could be no larger than 31 percent of its general operating fund. In 2014, the state allowed districts to raise the cap to 33 percent if district patrons approved the move by ballot vote.

USD 410 took advantage of those changes to state law to raise the authority?while enabling patrons to actually see a decrease in their property taxes of 2.4 mills.

?Unfortunately, the state did not follow through on the promise of additional state aid for schools and the result was a cut of $101,000 for USD 410,? Superintendent Steve Noble said.

Noble said the current ballot mailed to homes of patrons asks them if they approve raising the LOB 2 percent 33 percent.

?It is important to understand the USD 410 board is currently operating with 33 percent LOB authority based on the vote last spring,? Noble said. ?Voting ?no? reduces LOB funding by 2 percent for our schools, resulting in an estimated cut of $150,000.?

Ron Traxson, Peabody-Burns superintendent, said the current LOB election is timely for the district and local property owners.

?Peabody-Burns USD 398 is paying off the bond next year on the junior-senior high school constructed in 1996,? Traxson said. ?Our district has the unique opportunity to take advantage of increasing from a 30 percent LOB cap to a 33 percent and also enjoy a major drop in property taxes throughout the district.?

Traxson said USD 398 can increase its funding with a ?yes? vote while still dropping another 12 mills in addition to the 4.5 mill reduction this year, for a drop of more than 16 mills between this year and next year.

Goessel Superintendent John Fast has sent a newsletter explaining the effects of the state?s block grant funding and why 33 percent LOB is an important option.

Without it, he said, the school will lose at least $34,000 of state funding, perhaps more, in addition to other state funding cuts that have already been made.

Editor?s note: See Page 4A for statements on the LOB initiative from superintendents Steve Noble from Hillsboro and Ron Traxson from Peabody-Burns.

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