Election season never really ends anymore. Such is the case here in Johnson County where virtually every school district has their hands out asking for more money.
I believe every Johnson County school district, with the exception of Spring Hill, (SH people, look for your ballots in March or so) is asking voters for greater taxing authority or an increase in Local Option Budget authority.
I won't bore you by attempting to explain the LOB. (If you read this blog, you're smarter than the average bear, and probably already have an acceptable understanding.)
I will be voting against it, but I actually don't fault conservatives who would vote in favor of the increased authority. The LOB is flexible money that local districts can spend as they see fit, as opposed to much of districts' other funding, which is earmarked for very specific expenditures.
That said, I still think public school districts are a bottomless pit of wild spending, and until I see evidence that my local district becomes a better steward of the revenue it already receives, I can't see the logic of giving school officials even more cash.
I'm also reluctant to give the schools more money when they may be fat with cash very soon, thanks to the judiciary believing they can set budget policy. (But that's a story for another day.)
I am also troubled by the fact that there is no opportunity to take back the increased budget authority once voters give it. There's no mechanism to petition to lower the tax authority should a district misuse it. For example, a district could ask for increased taxing powers and then take that money to send all of its staff on junkets to Hawaii.
If that occurred, I would immediately want to revoke a school board's authorization. I can remove the board members, but I can't remove the privilege once given. Future boards will have the same increased authority forever.
I'm told boards could have opted to put a sunset on its LOB authority, allowing voters to have a future say about extending the authority. One logical reason against a board voting to sunset the tax is that the local districts must pay for the election, which by law, must be a mail-in (expensive!) election. Boards can't just put the question on a general election ballot.
The mail-in requirement was written into the law allowing school boards to seek additional LOB authority.
Rumor has it, that requirement was added, because some in the legislature did not like the idea of PTA voters running to the polls in say, November, and potentially ousting more conservative candidates.
I sincerely hope that rumor isn't true, but it probably is. Head. Desk.
Dear legislators: That could also work in conservatives' favor, and it may encourage some of those low-informed voters who only go to the polls to "support" schools to do their research on other topics.
Anyway, if you live in Johnson County and haven't yet received a ballot -- you may want to call the election office. LOB ballots are due back to the election office by Jan. 27.