Commission discuss proposal for school mental health initiative
The Leavenworth Times - 7/25/2018
July 25--County commissioners reached a consensus Tuesday to have staff look into a possible ballot question regarding a tax increase for a mental health program for schools.
Kim Knight, an assistant principal for Leavenworth High School, is proposing a program in which the Leavenworth, Lansing, Easton, Basehor-Linwood and Tonganoxie school districts contract with a mental health provider to provide services to students for suicide prevention and other mental health issues.
Knight is requesting that a question be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election to see if voters would approve a 2-mill increase to the county's tax levy. If approved, the money generated through the tax increase would be used to fund the program.
Mills are used in determining property taxes.
"It is a Leavenworth County problem," Knight said mental health issues in schools.
Representatives of several school districts attended Tuesday's meeting as well as representatives of the Leavenworth County Suicide Prevention Coalition and The Guidance Center community mental health center.
County Administrator Mark Loughry said county staff have to research to determine if such request would be a legal option. He said county staff members were seeking direction from commissioners before proceeding.
"There will be quite a bit of research involved," County Clerk Janet Klasinski said.
Klasinski noted there are additional school districts that are at least partially located within the county.
Klasinski also said it may be tough to get the question placed on the ballot for the November election because of deadlines for meeting legal publication requirements.
If voters were to approve a 2-mill increase, the earliest the tax increase could go into effect would be 2020, Loughry said.
Knight said any student who lives in Leavenworth County could have access to the program.
"We don't want to ask you for the money every year," she said to commissioners.
Knight said supporters of the initiative want the opportunity to ask voters if they will fund the program.
Commissioner Doug Smith said he would like for staff members to study the issue and determine the options available to the county.
Commissioner Bob Holland said he agreed with Smith.
While a majority of the commission reached a consensus to study the issue, Commission Chairman Louis Klemp expressed opposition.
"I do not need to study it," he said.
Klemp said the proposal was disrespectful to county commissioners because it sets them up for taxpayer complaints in the future.
Klemp said he did not see the logic in the county placing the question on a ballot when supporters of the initiative can seek funding from the school districts.
"It is not a county problem for the County Commission to remove the burden off of the school districts," he said.
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