USD 410 patrons approve LOB ballot initiative

By a significant majority, patrons of Unified School District 410 authorized their board of education last week to keep the property-tax authority for the district?s local option budget at 33 percent.

The results of the mail-in ballot vote were 613 in favor of keeping LOB authority at 33 percent, and 377 in opposition, a margin just under 2-1 (62 percent).

A year ago, the board of education took state-sanctioned action to ask patrons to approve by ballot vote raising the LOB taxing authority from 30 percent to 31 percent. Once approved by voters, the board exercised its authority to increase the percentage to 33.

Had the majority of voters cast a ?no? ballot in the recent mail-in election, the board would have had to return to 31 percent, resulting in an estimated funding loss?and budget cut?of $150,000.

Superintendent Steve Noble said he was pleasantly surprised by the margin of the mail-in vote.

?Truthfully, I had a feeling it would pass, but I thought it probably would be pretty close,? he said. ?I?m thankful that we live in a community that steps up for their schools, and our patrons really did.

?It goes to show you that they care,? he added. ?I think they understand the challenges we?re facing. I?m happy.?

Looking ahead

The 33 percent taxing authority is now permanent.

?It means the board can establish (taxing authority) up to that amount, but they don?t have to,? Noble said. ?They can always lower it.?

Even with additional taxing authority, the district continues to work at reducing expenses to meet the expected revenue loss of more than $101,000 as a result of the block grant bill passed by the Legislature in late March.

Given the revenue shortfall in Topeka, Noble isn?t confident the block grant bill will be funded in its entirety.

?They have said they?re going to hold public schools harmless, that their commitment is to fund the block grant bill. But I think that?s in danger. They?ve also targeted higher education cuts to make up the difference.?

More reductions?

Noble said the board of education has asked all district department heads?transportation, custodial, food services, etc.?to reduce their budgets by 10 percent for the remainder of the school year.

?That?s their challenge, and they knew that about three months ago, so they have really been scrutinizing spending even more than ever for the rest of this year,? Noble said.

To reach a 10 percent overall reduction for next year, the board also is looking to reduce staff, such as supplemental coaching positions and possibly not filling a teaching vacancy in family and consumer sciences.

Noble said, contrary to what several other districts have announced this spring, USD 410 will not be cutting unused snow days to save money.

?When you cut days you?re basically cutting work time of classified at-will employees,? he said. which includes transportation, food services, maintenence, technical support and secretarial.

?You?re going to save just a few thousand dollars,? Noble said. ?We estimate it to be about $5,000 to $6,000 if you cut five days.

?To subtract instructional days from kids to only save that amount is not a good educational decision, in my view,? he added. ?The rest of the people are all on salary. They have contracts that we can?t violate. You?ve got to pay them.

?Our board knows that, and to them it?s not worth it.?

By the numbers

Tina Spencer, Marion County clerk and election officer, said her office mailed a total of 2,297 ballots for the USD 410 election.

With 990 valid ballots returned, the results represented 43 percent of the total ballots. Spencer said 192 ballots were returned as undeliverable from 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 1,097 out of 2,297 voters responding, which is 47.76 percent.?