Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

School Finance Case Leads to Dip in Property Taxes ; Taxes: Average Kansas District to Receive Estimated 4.58 Mills in Relief

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

School Finance Case Leads to Dip in Property Taxes ; Taxes: Average Kansas District to Receive Estimated 4.58 Mills in Relief

Article excerpt

An infusion this year of court-ordered state aid appears poised to push down local property taxes across the state, with the greatest relief going to the school districts most in need, new state data show.

Those school districts also have seen their state aid for facilities maintenance and similar costs restored this school year, after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that depriving them of these resources had created "unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities" among the state's schools.

"It's good news," said John Rundle, superintendent of Royal Valley Unified School District 337, a 950-student district about 15 miles north of Topeka with one of the weakest local tax bases in the state. "It allows us to upgrade some technology that was way overdue."

Rundle's district also plans to replace an aging school bus.

At the same time, Royal Valley taxpayers will see an estimated 10.35-mill drop in their school taxes. That is about $95 for an $80,000 home -- the average home value in Mayetta, according to the Census Bureau.

"Taxpayers received significant assistance," Rundle said.

Like Royal Valley, most school districts benefitting this year from the Gannon v. State ruling will see a combination of tax relief for their residents and more state aid for technology and facilities maintenance and purchases.

The change marks a return to a funding formula that exists under state law, but that the state hadn't followed since the 2008-09 school year.

Under state law, school districts with weaker local tax resources should receive aid for costs like facilities and technology and for a separate budget for operating costs known as a supplemental general fund. The aid is meant to put them on equal footing with school districts that have stronger tax bases.

But the state hasn't been paying the facilities and technology aid since the recession and has been making only partial payments of the supplemental general aid. …

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