Newton Kansan

The budget for Newton USD 373 is far from complete, but Monday night the board received an update on the budget as it stands right now — and the budget is showing a slight increase to the overall general fund and a reduction of the overall mill levy.

"This is an update of where we are in the process," said Russell Miller, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services. "This is just a snapshot of where we are right now."

According to documentation given to the board, the general fund is projected to increase by about $52,000 — however, the mill levy is projected to decrease slightly from 57.329 mills to 57.219 mills.

All of that could change — for a number of reasons — before the full budget is presented for publication Aug. 12. There will be a public hearing Aug. 26 prior to final passage of a budget for the 2013-14 school year.

One of those changes could come in Walton — much of the increase to general fund expenditures is part of a project to add temporary classrooms to the Walton Rural Life Center elementary school. If the district can have those classrooms in place and operating by Sept. 15, the district would receive "new facilities weighting" for state aid — roughly $50,000.

If the district cannot get students into those buildings by Sept. 15, that aid would not arrive — and Miller said the district would likely reduce the general fund as a result.

"Without the Walton building, we will be below where we were last year," Miller said. "We are anticipating, if we can get the Walton building occupied, we can count new facilities weighting."

According to documents given to the board of education Monday, the total mill levy would drop about one tenth of a mill, from 57.320 to 57.219. The general fund mill levy is projected to stay at 20 mills. The bond and interest levy is expected to drop from 13.601 mills to 12.74 mills. The capital outlay fund is set at 2.35, about the same as the previous year. The Supplemental General Fund — also known as the Local Option Budget — increased slightly from 21.37 to 22.12.

"That reduction is purposeful, but this does not include the rec commission mill levy that can cloud the issue. Their plan right now is slightly lower also," Miller said. "Our software estimates the mill levy based on evaluations. When we finish our budget, the county clerk actually finalizes the mill levy."

Administration and the board of education have been working on this budget for several months — and it is not yet complete. One area where there could be change is in the capital outlay fund. Earlier this year the board requested information on the impact of levy increases within that fund.

Following an energy audit, there are recommended upgrades for facilities and equipment — it is unclear if the board will consider those upgrades or a capital outlay mill levy increase to facilitate them. The board was provided a table detailing how much would be raised, and how much it may cost a homeowner with a $100,000 home, for increases of 2.35, four, six and eight mills.

"That table is informational for them," Miller told the Kansan Monday afternoon. "I do not know what they will do. If they choose not to go there, our levy will remain pretty flat."