Supporting the Strategic Plan
The strategies and action steps in the recently approved Strategic Plan will require the dedication of resources to accomplish the desired outcome. Such resources may include staff time or supplies and purchased services. Many action steps can be accomplished within existing budget parameters, but some will almost certainly require new revenues.
In recent years, the District has added many new opportunities for our students with the resources currently available (e.g. International Baccalaureate, Project Lead The Way, Southland CAPS, expanded technology integration, expanded summer school). However, the district operating levy ceiling has not increased since 2003, and the current total levy decreased in 2017 due to an increase in property values.
Ray-Pec has a history of solid academic achievement at a very reasonable cost. When comparing to other KC metro districts, Ray-Pec is consistently among the top 10 in achievement while spending over 10% less than the state average per student (see Academic Success).
The KC metro rankings show, however, a general trend of higher student performance in conjunction with greater teacher pay and higher expenditures per student. Ray-Pec, like most districts, spends about 75% of its operating budget on staff. Recruiting and retaining the highest quality staff possible has become a primary challenge in recent years.
Establishing a market competitive salary and benefit plan was the most often cited priority during the strategic planning feedback process, even when excluding staff member responses from the feedback.
The combination of needs identified in the Strategic Plan will require additional resources to be accomplished in total. The primary way a school district can increase revenues is through a voter-approved increase to the operating tax levy.
After the Board’s preliminary discussion on this topic in December 2017, a refined list of increased levy scenarios (see Levy Impact Scenarios) was developed for consideration. A corresponding set of ballot resolutions was developed based on that December discussion, with a potential increase of 70 cents, 75 cents, or 80 cents. During a special meeting on Jan. 18, 2018, the Board voted to seek an operating levy increase of 75 cents. At the same time, the debt service tax rate is scheduled to decrease by 30 cents, resulting in a net tax rate increase of 45 cents.
Debt service levy will decrease
The Ray-Pec property tax rate is made up of an operating tax levy and a debt service tax levy. The debt service levy can only be used to generate funds to pay off existing facility debt financed through general obligation bonds, such as the $27 million bond issue passed in 2016. The District has consistently paid down outstanding bonds and refinanced remaining bonds for the lowest possible interest rate.
Considering this and the recent increase in local property values, the current debt service levy can be decreased by up to 30 cents to meet our current obligations. This reduction can offset a request to increase the operating levy. Any increase in the operating levy, along with other general revenue increases, can be dedicated to a variety of strategies and action steps within the Strategic Plan.
How will additional funds be used?
Here is more detail on how the resources could be used to support the Strategic Plan (see Use of Funds).
Such allocations should be considered estimates, since in each budget year the Board will need to update priorities to allocate available resources based on long-range plans and current needs. The mix from year to year may vary among the three Focus Areas and specific strategies in the Strategic Plan.
As mentioned previously, approximately 75% of the operating budget covers staffing costs. Teacher salary comparisons have been generated for the KC Metro Top 10 districts mentioned previously (see Salary Comparison Information).
Ray-Pec consistently ranks in the lower third of that group of districts, most of which are in direct competition for high quality staff. This is generally true for other staff categories as well. Moving closer to the districts in the top third will require additional resources.