Wichita School Bond Issue: It’s not the $42.55, it’s the $1,927

Twelve cents per day for the owner of a $100,000 home is the mantra of supporters when it comes to selling the cost of the proposed USD 259 $370 million school bond issue to district taxpayers. That amount equates to about $42.55 per year or $3.55 per month in additional taxes. Who could oppose such a paltry amount?

The problem is that this argument leaves out the district’s tremendously high spending, making it sound as through school district spending is a minor issue.

To understand the financial impact of Wichita school district spending there’s another number that bond issue supporters don’t publicize: $1,927. This is the number you get when you take the annual spending of USD 259 ($605,419,477) and divide it by the number of people living within the district’s boundaries (314,141). In other words, the district must raise $1,927 per person, each year, through a variety of taxes to support its spending.

For a family of four, that’s $7,708 required each year to support USD 259 spending. When looking at the numbers in this context it gives us an idea of the huge volume of resources that the district has at its command. It is a tremendous amount of money.

Thirty one percent of district spending is paid for from local sources. The rest comes from the State of Kansas (58%) and the federal government (11%) (2006 to 2007 figures). So USD 259 residents are not taxed $1,927 per person by the school district directly. But through a combination of local, state, and federal taxes, this is the actual amount that must be raised, per person, for each year, to keep USD 259 running.

So when bond supporters ask for that paltry additional $42.55 in yearly taxes for the proposed bond issue, here’s what you can say: I already gave.

Sources of data: Spending figures are the budgeted spending for 2008 — 2009 from the USD 259 proposed budget book at http://www.usd259.com/offices/finance/budgetbook/Year+2008-09/Proposed+Budget+Book.htm, page 27.

The population of USD 259 is from the National Center for Education Statistics at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sdds/acs06/esdr/main.aspx?yr=2006&st=20, from the 2006 American Community Survey data. This is the most current data available.

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