Great Bend USD 428 will ask for less money from taxpayers this year. On Thursday, the school board approved the publication of a proposed budget that is almost 5 mills lower than the one in 2017.
“We’re going to have a significant decrease in property tax for the district,” Superintendent Khris Thexton said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it drop like that.”
The board approved the publication of the proposed budget at a special meeting held Thursday morning. The budget summary appears as a legal ad in the classified section of Friday's Great Bend Tribune.
The estimated tax rate for 2018-2019 will be 41.226 mills, which is 4.8 mills lower than the 2017-2018 tax rate of 46.031 mills. Most of that is due to a drop in the local option budget (LOB), also known as the supplemental general budget, but the district also plans to make the final payment on a bond issue next month, so it will not levy any taxes for bonds and interest.
The LOB is going down because enrollment went down, Thexton said.
Thexton said this is the first step in finishing the budget process. Next comes a public budget hearing at 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13, at the District Education Center, 201 S. Patton Road. That is also the date of the next regular school board meeting, which will start with the hearing.
The breakdown for the proposed budget includes 20.0 mills for the general fund, which is paid by all Kansas property owners, and 13.226 mills for the LOB. Another 8 mills will be levied for capital outlay.
Last year’s LOB tax rate was 18.789 mills and the capital outlay rate was 6.525 mills.
Future bond issues?
The school district spent $967,125 on debt service this year and will pay off its bonds next month. Therefore, it will require no tax to be levied this year for debt service. In 2017-2018 it spent $1.72 million in this category and the tax rate was 0.717 mills; in 2016-2016 it spent $3.6 million and the tax rate was 5.044 mills.
The district is working with an architect and looking at future needs.
With the possibility of projects in the future, school board member Don Williams said the district needs to make sure the public knows that the tax rate has dropped so much.
“That’s something we could push,” he said.
Thexton agreed, noting that USD 428 has a low mill rate. But, he said, “you don’t get a lot of credit for lowering taxes.” On the other hand, if the tax rate goes back up the district is likely to get feedback.
Officials with other governing bodies have previously noted that taxpayers generally prefer that the mill levy remain relatively “flat,” rather than taking swings up and down.
Thexton noted that the budget published in the Tribune also shows 8.5 mills that will go to the Great Bend Recreation Commission. This is not part of the school district’s budget. “We don’t do anything with that money,” Thexton said. The county sends USD 428 the money and it is passed on to the GBRC.
The GBRC tax rate is unchanged from last year, with 7.0 mills going to the rec commission and 1.5 mills to its employee benefits and special liabilities fund.
Auditor contract approved
In other business Thursday, the board approved a three-year extension to its contract with accounting firm Adams Brown Beran and Ball to conduct the district audits. The cost for the 2018 audit is not to exceed $23,000; 2019 is not to exceed $23,690 and 2020 is not to exceed $24,400.
Board member Deanna Essmiller asked whether the district has looked at other firms. “Do you ever put this out there for a bid?”
Thexton said the district does not. This type of service contract does not require bids, similar to the ongoing contract for an attorney.
“You are right, there are other options,” he said. However, the district has been happy with the thorough work done by ABBB, he said.