PAOLA — Paola USD 368 school board members approved the district’s 2021-22 budget following a public hearing Monday, Aug. 23, during which no members of the public spoke.

The budget includes a 1.4-mill decrease in the mill levy from 51.942 to 50.540. The mill levy is the rate in which the school district collects property taxes.

Despite the decrease, the school district will still collect more property tax revenue because the district’s assessed valuation increased by nearly nine percent — a gain of $14.5 million.

Whether or not a homeowner sees a decrease or increase in their property taxes will depend on how their assessed valuation changed. Other taxing entities, such as cities and the county, also have mill levies that play a role.

Jimmy Hay, the district’s director of finance, gave his annual budget presentation during the Aug. 9 school board meeting, and it is available on the district’s website at usd368.org.

In addition to the budget public hearing Aug. 23, the school district also had to conduct a public hearing stating that the budget exceeds the revenue neutral rate. Multiple other local governmental entities have had to conduct similar hearings to abide by the revenue-neutral regulations mapped out in SB 13.

Hay said during his presentation that in order to meet the revenue-neutral guidelines, the school district would have had to lower the general fund mill levy from 20 to 18.32, which would have violated state statute since the state sets the general fund mill levy at 20 mills.

The overall revenue-neutral mill levy, in which the school district would collect the same amount of tax revenue as the prior year, would be 47.72.

The approved school district budget includes a three percent increase in base state aid per pupil totaling $4,706, but Hay pointed out that it is still just slightly higher than it was in 2009 at $4,433. During difficult economic times it dropped as low as $3,780 in 2012.

Declining enrollment also is hurting state funding. Enrollment has dropped each of the last four years, from 2,029 in fiscal year 2018, to 1,933 in fiscal year 2019, to 1,911 in fiscal year 2020, to 1,677 in fiscal year 2021. The 2021 total excludes virtual students, and there were 75 full-time virtual and one part-time last year, which would increase the total to 1,753.

Senior Managing Editor Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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