Patrons of Unified School District 398 Pea?body-Burns authorized its board of education to increase the local option ballot taxing authority from 30 percent to 33 percent by nearly a 3-1 margin by mail-in ballot.
The result was 360 votes in favor and 137 against.
?I?m happy that we?ll be able to have the funds in order to meet the flat line status that we?ll receive with the block grant,? Superin?ten?dent Ron Traxson said about the outcome. ?I?m also pretty happy that people are still supportive of the schools and maintaining our programs.?
Traxson said he was ?optimistically anxious? prior to the vote, but didn?t know what to expect.
?We?ve got a district that spans quite a few miles and two communities,? he said. ?I know any community that?s done any kind of consolidation over the years, there?s still feelings if you had school in two communities and you?re down to one. That lingers.?
Traxson credited the board for deciding not to ask for an LOB increase last year when it was initially allowed. The district has now paid off its most recent bond issue, enabling a significant reduction in the local mill levy.
?It helps that we waited a year before we did anything so it coincides better with that we?re coming off the bond,? he said. ?No matter what we did, we were going to drop more than 10 mills. The timing was perfect.?
He said the local decrease could be as much as 16 or 17 mills from two years ago, assuming the state doesn?t change the rules of the game in the meantime.
Traxson said another factor that strengthened patron confidence in the board was its budget-reduction strategies prior to the school year.
?We cut three teachers, a couple of aides and an administrator,? he said. ?So, we were ahead of the game. We knew that no matter what, we needed to be even more fiscally responsible, so we made some cuts and did some blending.?
Traxson said it?s difficult to predict how the state will manage the current budget crisis and its effect on K-12 education, but he feels good about the local situation, as indicated by the ballot vote.
?It?s a positive that our patrons, even though there?s questions, that maybe they do understand that there are some real issues at the state level?but they have confidence at the local level and they have confidence in their board members that if we have the funds, we?ll spend it wisely,? he said.
?It?s a good fiscal victory, if you will, but it?s also a great moral victory in the sense that we have the support, and the board has the confidence, of the patrons to spend their money wisely.?
By the numbers
Tina Spencer, Marion County clerk and election officer, said her office mailed a total of 1,155 ballots for the USD 398 election.
With 497 valid ballots returned, the results represented 43 percent of the total ballots. Spencer said 115 ballots were rejected or undeliverable by the post office.
?In Kansas, voter credit is given if the voter sends the ballot back?even if the ballot that is cast is not valid or counted,? Spencer said. ?So, for voter turnout, we count the valid returned ballots, invalid returned ballots and provisional ballots, for a total of 550 out of 1,155 voters responding, which is 47.6 percent.?