BV LOB election to end Jan. 27

Natasha Vyhovsky, News Editor

The mail-in election to maintain the current Local Option Budget (LOB) for Blue Valley Schools is scheduled to end Jan. 27.

The vote is to continue the 2 percent LOB increase allowed by the Kansas Legislature last year and implemented by the BV School District.  The LOB was increased from 31 to 33 percent and now residents are allowed to vote to keep the 2 percent increase to the budget that was implemented last year, or to do away with it and potentially lose $3 million in district funding.

Kristi McNerlin, director of communications for the Blue Valley School District, said the LOB is essentially a supplement for the district’s operational budget. This part of the budget pays for teacher salaries, classroom supplies, insurance, utilities, etc., and the district is allowed by the state to implement an LOB that contributes an additional 33 percent of the operational budget to assist in funding.

“The LOB is something that more and more has become a fund to make up for the decrease in state funding,” McNerlin said.

According to the Kansas State Department of Education, state aid per pupil funding decreased in 2010 by nearly $700 but has since been increasing, currently at $4,779 per student. Information provided by BV Assistant Superintendent Mike Slagle shows that the total state aid per pupil funding is increasing, this fund includes three different areas–bond and interest, the LOB fund and the General Operating Fund. Slagle said that the General Operating Funds are the only ones that go to pay teachers, fund classroom supplies, etc.

This General Operating Fund, also known as the base state aid per pupil, has been decreasing, now at $3,594, while the two other areas included in the state aid per pupil have been the ones actually increasing in funding. Slagle said that the LOB goes to fund the decreasing base state aid and pay for classroom supplies, teacher salaries, insurance, utilities and other costs directly associated with students.

McNerlin said that, this year, the Kansas Legislature required that the Blue Valley Board of Education host an election that allows residents to vote to keep the LOB at 33 percent. To cast a vote in the election, residents of the Blue Valley School District need only register online and complete the mail-in ballot.

“If the election does not pass, then we will go back to 31 percent LOB,” McNerlin said. “That is a loss of $3 million for the school district, and that will mean our board of education will have some tough decisions because they’ll be looking to our budget to either reduce or reallocate funds…because we’ll have a hole to fill.”

McNerlin said the cuts that would need to be made with a loss of $3 million could come from money spent on utilities, teacher salaries, insurance, etc., but the exact areas of potential cuts are undecided. McNerlin said the BV Board of Education will have to decide where it will be best to make cuts once the votes come back.

“Everything will be on the table,” McNerlin said in regards to where the district might make cuts.

When the LOB went from 31 to 33 percent last year, McNerlin said the Blue Valley teachers hadn’t had a raise in years, so that is where the additional budget money was spent. In regards to the current election, McNerlin said it is necessary to note that a “yes” vote will most likely not cost residents additional money, as it is a vote to continue funds already in place.

“I think the most important thing to remember with this election, is based on what we know now [and] the current factors, there’s not going to be a tax increase with this election,” McNerlin said.

Julie Brewer, a mother of two students in the Blue Valley district, is part of a committee involved with informing the community about the LOB election and the benefits she believes will ensue as a result of voting in favor of maintaining it.

“Personally I think one of the best investments we can make in our community is that investment that we make into our students,” Brewer said.

Brewer said she believes that a yes vote is crucial to keeping the rigor and student success seen in Blue Valley schools.

“Our dollars need to come from somewhere if we want to maintain schools that have the variety of programs, the quality of teachers, the rigor that’s in the curriculum,” Brewer said. “If you don’t have the dollars to support that…all that starts to go away and it diminishes the overall rigor of the education.”

McNerlin said the Blue Valley School District desires to maintain the education and programs that help enrich the schools, but she also said it becomes increasingly difficult to do so without sufficient funds.

“We want so much to be able to offer not just an adequate education for our students,” McNerlin said. “We want our students to have an education that goes beyond expectations, and the LOB is usually a type of fund that [pays for] some of those special programs that allow us to personalize learning.”

Ballots for the LOB election were sent to registered voters Jan. 7. Completed ballots are to be sent back following the accompanying instructions and received by noon Jan. 27 at the Johnson County Election Office.