The school district’s attorney has been in contact with The Gardner News regarding questions on the district’s special meeting July 13, and drafted a second notice which allows the public to attend, and it also increases the proposed county mill levy from the original published notice. (See below.) The board apparently chose not to republish the notice.
Two board members responded to the newspaper’s questions (see below). The questions left unanswered are also published include:
– What is the district going to vote on at the July 13 meeting?
– If the revenue neutral hearing doesn’t have to be held until August, and there is a board meeting in July, what is the point of this special meeting that it can’t be postponed until the board and staff can attend? Is there an agenda?
-Since the amended public notice changes both the mill amount (increase) and now allows public to attend, why not properly notice? Transparency and avoiding losing public trust should be worth something.
-If the amended notice is not published, is it a legal meeting?
-The original notice indicated it was a ZOOM meeting, when the AG issued a press release that ZOOM meetings should be ended in June. Was the BOE/administration not aware of the AG opinion?

USD 231 levy may exceed county mill determination: ZOOM meeting may violate open meetings act
Taxpayers may see an increase in school taxes. If USD 231 holds their mil levy constant, or increases it, and a home’s valuation increases, taxes paid will also increase.
On July 4, USD 231 board members called a special meeting for 6 p.m. July 13 to discuss recent state legislation requiring taxing entities notify the county clerk if new tax rates exceed the revenue-neutral tax rate.
According to the district’s public notice, the meeting will be held via ZOOM rather than open in public.
“The special board meeting is expected to be brief (no longer than 30 minutes). Out of respect for everyone’s time, the meeting will be held via Zoom and can be viewed HERE,” the notice reads.
The public notice does not indicate if taxpayers will have the ability to make comment, if decisions will be made or other items discussed. No agenda was included with the notice.
The district, and some other entities, began holding ZOOM meetings during the 2020 pandemic. Most other entities have returned to in-person meetings that are open to the public, as required by the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
According to a June 15 press release from Derek Schmidt, Kansas Attorney General, the expiration of Gov. Kelly’s executive order “means public bodies and agencies that are subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) must now allow the public to attend meetings in person.” The complete link from Schmidt’s office is at https://ag.ks.gov/media-center/news-releases/2021/06/15/ag-derek-schmidt-end-to-state-of-emergency-brings-changes-to-koma-profiteering-laws
A July 6 e mail sent to the district’s board clerk asking why the meeting was not open to the public has not yet been answered. A follow up e mail objecting to the special meeting being closed was sent to all board members and the superintendent on July 8, 2021. This story will be updated if a response is received.
In addition, a public hearing would have to be held after August 20 if the district increases the mill rate from the 17.975 determined by the Johnson County Treasury, Taxation & Vehicles Department to 20 mill. The public hearing has not been noticed.
The complete public notice is below:
Posted – July 4, 2021
SPECIAL BOARD MEETING NOTICE
PUBLIC NOTICE
Notice is hereby given that the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 231, Johnson County, Kansas, will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, at 6:00 p.m.
This meeting is being called as a result of Senate Bill 13 and Senate Sub for House Bill 2104. These bills require school districts to notify the county clerk of new tax rates which exceed the revenue-neutral rate (RNR) by July 20th. Since Senate Sub for House Bill 2313 re-authorizes the general fund 20.000 mill property tax levy for school years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, USD 231 is required to exceed the general fund revenue-neutral-rate of 17.975, which was calculated by the Johnson County Treasury, Taxation & Vehicles Department. USD 231 is statutorily prohibited from using the revenue-neutral rate for the general fund.
The special board meeting is expected to be brief (no longer than 30 minutes). Out of respect for everyone’s time, the meeting will be held via Zoom and can be viewed HERE.
By order of the Board of Education, Unified School District No. 231, Johnson County, Kansas, this fourth day of July, 2021.
UPDATE
(There were numerous other e mails, which can be available, but these are the ones – at this point – written in conclusion. No other board members or any administrators responded to any questions or e mails. )
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Shawn Carlisle
Rhonda this isn’t the hearing. That will take place next month and like budget hearings will be a chance for more public input and in person. This is mandated by the state. We can vote against it, but we’ll keep having to have meetings until we vote for it since it’s state mandated. Curt is an attorney and I trust his direction. Have a great day

*****
Shawn
Thanks for replying to my e mails.
Contrary to opinion, I am not public enemy # 1 for the BOE, but trust goes both ways. Unfortunately the district’s policies with me (and the public) erodes trust. That is the district’s choice. I would prefer to work together. I’m sorry the article regarding the ZOOM meeting hurt board members.
There would not have been an article regarding the ZOOM meeting had someone from the BOE or administration answered my original, or secondary, e mails. I am still not sure why it took an attorney to respond or draft the amended notice. I’m sure that wasn’t cheap for taxpayers.
At this point I have still not had questions answered, but you’ve added another one –
– What is the district going to vote on at the July 13 meeting?
– If the hearing doesn’t have to be held until August, and there is a board meeting in July, what is the point of this meeting that it can’t be postponed to when the board and staff can attend?
-Since the amended public notice changes both the mill amount (increase) and now allows public to attend, why not properly notice? Transparency and avoiding losing public trust should be worth something.
-If the amended notice is not published, is it a legal meeting?
-The original notice indicated it was a ZOOM meeting, when the AG issued a notice that ZOOM meetings should be ended in June. Was the BOE/administration not aware of the AG opinion?
– NOTE: Board members telephoning in is much different than noticing a ZOOM meeting.
I thank you for your service on the BOE.
Rhonda

****
Good evening, Rhonda,
I just wanted to provide some clarification for your first question regarding Open Meetings (I’m still catching up on the rest).
In an effort to make sure we were all on the same page, and because so many are currently on vacation, I put in a call to KASB – Kansas Association of School Boards – and asked for clarification on the requirement for in person meetings, specifically in relation to a Special Meeting. The way I understand it, BOE members may meet via zoom, as long as the District provides a public space for the public to listen to said meeting.
Additionally, also to clarify, I asked if we were required to allow public commentary during an Open Meeting and, according to KASB, no Board is required to provide time for public commentary, though most Boards have a policy in place which specifically address that need, as do we.
That said, I have no issue with meeting either in person or via Zoom and am flexible to either form of meeting. I will admit, originally, I was concerned that my family may be on vacation that week and therefore was supportive of a Zoom meeting so I could attend as well in the event we were out of town.
As for public commentary, I will always support and encourage the ability for the public to be involved in our meetings, whether that be via telephone or in person. A transparent and open communication between the public and the BOE is very important to me.
I also appreciate you asking these questions as certain procedures and requirements aren’t always clear, even to Board Members like myself, and especially when dealing with new situations held to new or updated requirements.
I hope this helps at least a portion of your concern. With appreciation,

Kristen Schultz