Danedri Thompson
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Doug Schwinn, school business director, is keeping his fingers crossed that preliminary assessed property valuations in the Spring Hill School District will hold. Although approximately 75 percent of homes in Johnson County were appraised at stagnant or lower values than they were the year before, the value of the school district increased 3.5 percent in 2010.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,”  Schwinn said. “…Since our budget is based on the numbers in July,

I usually wait before I get too excited. But if they hold, and we get 3.5 percent increase, I’ll be thrilled.”

Building permits doubled in Spring Hill last year, but Schwinn said the majority of the district’s growth came in the northwest part of the district in Olathe.

Kansas school districts base their budgets on the appraised value of properties in the district as a whole. A 3.5 percent increase in the district’s value theoretically translates into a 3.5 percent boost in a portion of the district’s budget without a tax rate increase.

The numbers for the Gardner Edgerton School District contained what school budget director Eric Hansen called good and bad news. According to numbers Hansen received from the county appraiser’s office in late February, the district lost .63 percent of its value over the course of 2010.

That’s better than district officials anticipated.

Last year, Hansen said the district saw a pretty significant drop in its assessed value.

“Right now, if you look at residential and commercial figures, we’re looking at a flat picture,” Hansen said.

The stagnant values suggest to Hansen that the economic recovery won’t be as rosy as officials had hoped for.

While district finance offices hammer out how estimated appraised valuations may affect next year’s tax rates, Hansen said there are several other factors to consider.
State legislators could adjust base state aid per pupil. They could adjust other state aid rates.

“Those all play into what the mill levy is going to look like,” Hansen said. “We still have a lot of things that will look into the budget next year. There are simply so many variables on the table right now.”

Schwinn said the rising cost of fuel is another unknown in the school budget picture.

“We’re probably close to or near the bottom of the recession, and hopefully, we’ll start to see a slow turnaround,” he said.
The intermodal is another big wild card, he explained.

“We just don’t know how big of an impact the intermodal will be on the Johnson County area,” Schwinn said.

And still, the assessed value projections school officials recently received from the county appraiser’s office could change between now and July 1. Right now, property owners have the option of appealing their assessed valuations, and occasionally, the numbers change dramatically.