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De Soto Voters to Fill Three School Board Seats, Decide on Property Tax Change

Voters in the De Soto School District will have choices to make in the April general election. Candidates are vying for two open seats, in addition to one incumbent who is running unopposed. Also, voters must decide whether to approve a measure allowing the district to change the property tax in support of schools.

School Board Candidates

Newcomers vying for Position 4 on the board are Scott Hancock, Calvin Hayden and Jeff Hopkins.

Incumbent Dick Dearwester is running unchallenged for Position 5.

And Rachele M. Zade is challenging incumbent Tammy K. Thomas for Position 6.

So far, only Hayden has responded to an invitation to complete the KC Education Enterprise candidate survey.

There appear to be no candidate websites or Facebook pages where voters can find information about the campaigns.

School board members are citizens who volunteer without pay to determine the policies the superintendent uses to administer the district. The superintendent works for them, and they are responsible for tasks such as long-range planning, establishing the salaries and benefits of certified teachers, approving the annual budget and calling elections for tax levies and bond proposals.

Local Option Budget Ballot Question

In addition to selecting school board candidates, voters must decide whether to allow the district to add an additional one percent to its Local Option Budget, which is funded by homeowners’ property taxes. If voters approve this change, then De Soto will be eligible for a corresponding increase in state aid available for districts in areas such as Johnson County with a high cost of living.

Although the change De Soto is asking for requires a tax increase, administrators say homeowners will actually see a slight decline in their property taxes. This paradoxical promise is possible, because the district is losing another revenue source paid for entirely by local property taxes. The extraordinary-growth funding being eliminated allows the building of new facilities to accommodate growing numbers of students. Now that the district’s growth has leveled off, De Soto is no longer eligible for this fund, which will be phased out over the next two years.

What will happen if voters say “No” to the district’s Local Option Budget question:

Local Option Budget De Soto 1

What may happen if voters say “Yes” to the district’s Local Option Budget ballot question:

Local Option Budget De Soto 2

It is important for voters to research this issue before going to the polls, because the issue is not understandable by just reading the ballot question, which will appear as follows:

Shall the Board of Education of Unified School District No. 232, Johnson County, State of Kansas, be authorized to increase its local option budget authority by an additional 1% of its state financial aid, with the authorization to be permanent?

Voters who wish to learn more about this issue may refer to the Kansas Statute governing local option budgets. Interested voters may also refer to the Kansas Legislative Research Department’s most recent Kansas Legislator Briefing Bookwhich explains a number of terms key to understanding school financing in the state.

Sample ballots for the De Soto school board race and Local Option Budget decision are available from the Johnson County Election Office.

Elections will take place Tuesday, April 2, on both sides of the state line in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

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The KC Education Enterprise has a new sister site, KC Education Research Updates, with occasional news from researchers and neuroscientists of interest to educators.

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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