July 31, 2014

Spring Hill district to lower mill rate

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

The Spring Hill Board of Education approved an $32 million budget that includes a slight mill level decrease during a meeting and budget public hearing on Monday night. The slightly reduced mill rate – from 66.561 last year to 65.432 – translates into about a $14 annual savings for the owner of a $122,000 home in the Spring Hill School District and about $18 for the owner of a $150,000 home in the district.

Bart Goering told board members that the Spring Hill School District is the only district in the Johnson County in which the mill levy is trending down. For example, the De Soto School District’s mill levy has increased more than 14 mills within the last 10 years for a total levy 83.979. Blue Valley has increased its levy by 10.300 for a total levy of 71.030. Gardner-Edgerton has increased its mill levy by 2.99 in the last 10 years for a total levy of 79.539, and in Shawnee Mission, the total mill levy is 57.178 – an increase of more than five mills in 10 years.

“If someone is thinking about buying a home or starting a business, that’s significant in how much tax they’re going to pay in our district,” Goering said.

Doug Schwinn, school finance director, said the Spring Hill district is the only district in Johnson County and maybe the entire state that doesn’t have a capital outlay fund. The fund is generated through a mill levy that district voters struck down in the ballot box.

The lack of a capital outlay fund was of concern to the sole resident who spoke during the budget public hearing.

Charlene Novakovich told the board she is employed by the district and is a district taxpayer and parent. She said voters that struck down the board’s authority to tax for a capital outlay fund were horribly misinformed.

“I really want to say to the community of Spring Hill: You need to get better informed about what the capital outlay is and what it funds,” she said.

The fund is primarily used to fund buildings and grounds and can not be used for teacher salaries by state statute, she said.

Schwinn said the district had close to $3 million in its capital outlay fund when it lost its taxing authority six years ago.

“Once that fund was no longer renewed, we delayed a lot of items,” he said. “We’ve worked real hard to stretch that $3 million as long as we could. I’m still amazed we still have money in that fund.”

Goering said Spring Hill ranks near the bottom statewide in funds spent per pupil. During the 2008-2009 school year, the district spent approximately $11,191 per pupil. That number dropped to $9,710 in 2009-2010 and will fall again to $9,507 in next year’s budget.

Although near the bottom in expenditures per student, Goering said Spring Hill stacks up well against other districts in the area and the state.

“I think the biggest thing you have to look at is what you’re doing with the money,” he said.

Of the $32 million budget approximately 57 percent will be used for instructional purposes, Goering said. Approximately 1 percent goes towards general administration. Eleven percent will be used for debt service and another 8 percent will be used for maintenance and operations.

Of the $18 million general fund budget, state aid will fund more than $14.2 million of it. Local patrons will provide the rest.

Schwinn said he feels confident that the budget will be able to withstand up to another $100 worth of cuts to base state aid per pupil if state revenues continue to decline.

“We do have some reserves,” Schwinn said. “If things go south real fast, we do have plans in place to address that.”

Goering said if all goes well, the district will be able to set aside funds in this year’s budget to bolster its cash reserves. He is optimistic there won’t be much deeper cuts to public education.

“The last two revenue reports (from the state) haven’t been that bad,” Goering said. “I’m hoping we’ll get into February and we’ll see a little bit of a turnaround.”

Budget information can be found online at www.usd230.org/ourdistrict/budget.

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