School funding fix could cut taxes

News editor

A recent court-required change to school funding won’t give Marion-Florence schools a bigger budget, but should cut local property taxes.

Superintendent Lee Leiker gave board members a preliminary overview Monday of what June’s special legislative session and Supreme Court ruling on school finance means.

“We weren’t going to gain any additional dollars, so the additional money we will get for the local option budget will be a decrease in our tax rate,” Leiker said. “We’re going to get more of our budget from the state and less from local.”

The battle over state funding has delayed budget development, but Leiker hopes to have something for the board to review at in August.

Marion National Bank take over district bank accounts in the coming school year under an established three-year rotation among Marion banks, but Leiker asked the board to discuss an alternative.

“The normal rotation would be Marion National Bank, but there is a thought as well that merits consideration,” he said. “Tampa State Bank is a locally owned bank, and there’s nothing that says we have to go in rotation.”

Board member Nick Kraus said he had had a similar thought while reviewing Monday’s agenda.

“It kind of came to my attention when I read that,” he said. “There is only one home-owned family bank and the rest are just branches. I’m not advocating one way or another.”

Marion National actually has only one location, though its owners may have interests in other banks.

Tim Young noted that Tampa State Bank president Chris Costello is the board’s attorney. Young asked whether that would be a conflict of interest.

“If there was a legal issue with the bank, we’d want to exclude him, but that’s the only conflict I would see,” Leiker said.

Ann Helmer spoke in favor of maintaining the three-year rotation.

“Even if it’s not home-owned, Central National Bank and Marion National Bank have local people who work for them,” she said.

Several local people also own stock.

In response to a question from Young, Leiker said all three banks had supported the district.

“If it’s been working, keep it the same way,” Young said.

The board decided to go with Marion National Bank.

In other business:

  • Former board president Chris Sprowls was approved to replace Jana Nordquist, who resigned from the board to accept a school nurse job with the district.
  • An agreement for a $12,400 playground grant for Marion Elementary School from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was approved. The district will have to raise and spend about $70,000 for the $83,000 project before the money is awarded.
  • Marion Booster Club will donate uniform tops for the high school varsity volleyball team.

Last modified July 14, 2016