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Other Taxing Issues - Warrensburg R-VI School Levy

Warrensburg R-VI District Proposes Operating Levy Increase

The Warrensburg R-VI School Board has placed a 53 cent operating levy increase on the June 4 ballot. The question on the ballot will read: “Shall the school board of the Warrensburg R-VI School district be authorized to increase the operating tax levy for purposes of paying the increased costs associated with educational programs, technology, utilities, building expenses and maintenance, school supplies, staff compensation, and other operational needs by fifty-three cents ($0.53) per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation? If this proposition is approved, the adjusted operating levy of the school district is estimated to be three dollars and sixty-eight cents ($3.68) per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation.”

According to information released by the school district, the additional tax will raise about $950,000 the first year and will generate an additional $1.1 million in state aid. An information sheet prepared by the district indicated that the money would be used for teacher retention and recruitment, technology, maintenance & repair of buildings, maintaining reserves at an adequate level and “supplies, equipment and utilities.” However, Lynn Solomon, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, stated that no specific budget had been prepared for allocating additional funds.

One of the concerns stated by R-VI district personnel was the change in the school foundation formula caused by the state budget crisis. According to published reports, it is believed that the change will reduce by $45 million the amount required to “fully fund” the state aid package for next fiscal year (2002-3). Other problems with state aid cited are a shortfall in bus transportation funding and special education costs that exceed state reimbursement by over $1 million. This is stated to be a particular problem for Warrensburg since parents of special needs students choose to move to the district because of its program’s reputation.

The base salary for a starting teacher in Warrensburg is $25,500; the base salary has increased an average of $700-$800 annually over the past several years. The salary schedule includes multiple steps for longevity and advanced degrees. Annual turnover is reported at 10-15%, with suburban Kansas City area schools the main competitors for teaching staff. The overall student-teacher ratio has declined from around 14.9 in 1992-3 to 11.8 in the current year. The district has 17 full-time administrators, or one for each 182 students. Non-certified staff positions have increased from 114 in 1996-7 to the current level of 143.

Maintenance included in the plan include roof replacement at Martin Warren, boiler replacement at Martin Warren & Ridgeview, replacement of failing rooftop units at the High School, and the higher level of routine maintenance required for older buildings. The district has a practice of rolling back debt service levies by a few pennies each year as debt is retired, rather than including a sinking fund for known major repairs, such as replacement of 20-year roofing systems.

The district reports having over 1200 computers, approximately one for each 3 students and faculty. They intend to repair, upgrade and replace equipment, upgrade software, and train staff with some of the additional funds.

In the past decade, voters have passed operating levy increases in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997 and 1999. These totaled in excess of $1.23, a portion of which was rolled back as required under the Hancock Amendment. Except for the 1991 increase, all were associated with bond issues, which totaled $12.3 million. County-wide reassessments were conducted in 1997 and 2001; the 1997 reassessment was substantial, increasing overall district valuation by over 20%. However, the reassessment of existing property is supposed to be revenue-neutral under Hancock Amendment rules. Hancock Amendment rollbacks do not apply to the debt service levy, which currently stands at 72 cents.

Based on data provided by the school system, total revenue for the district is somewhat over $21 million with expenses slightly less than that. Revenue from local property taxes (current and delinquent) is about $2,600 per student; state and federal funds make up the remainder of the $6,700 per student operating cost. In comparison, operating cost per student was $3,700 for the 1992-3 school year. During the same period, a new middle school was opened and student load increased about 16%. Teaching staff and administrative staff increased about 42% and non-certified staff by over 80%.

There has been no organized support or opposition to this issue. The district’s information sheet is available on the web.

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