Although both the Wichita and Lawrence school districts were held to a $700,000 cap in general state aid last fall, Lawrence will not join Wichita in possibly receiving a multimillion-dollar windfall.
Depsite state projections for school funding being off the mark, state aid to the Lawrence district for the 1991-92 school year will stay the same, say officials with the Kansas Department of Education.
For 1991-92, districts that were slated for state aid reductions of more than 12.5 percent actually were held to losing no more than 12.5 percent under a "hold harmless" clause.
However, the Kansas Legislature put a cap of $700,000 on the amount of hold harmless money a district could receive, even if that reimbursement meant the district lost more than 12.5 percent of their state aid. As a result, Lawrence lost about $2.6 million in general state aid, and Wichita was faced with an $11 million drop.
Now the department of education has announced that more school funds are available than originally were expected, and Wichita is one district that could receive additional funding a whopping $6 million.
VERYL PETER, director of school finance at the state department, said a big reason that Wichita and not Lawrence stands to get a windfall is because Lawrence has a considerably greater district wealth proportional to its enrollment. A district's wealth is defined according to its assessed property valuation and the taxable income of its residents.
Dale Dennis, assistant commissioner for financial services at the state department, said a new figure for the Lawrence district's taxable income is higher than an earlier estimate. That number has jumped from nearly $466 million to about $480 million.
A greater taxable income usually means less general state aid, but Peter said Lawrence's state aid will stay at $700,000.
What is expected to rise, because of the district's increased taxable income, is the district's income tax rebate from the state. Peter said the rebate could increase by about $384,700, from the earlier estimated $4.53 million to $4.91 million.
LAWRENCE School Supt. Dan Neuenswander said any additional state funding could not help Lawrence this year because the district can spend only that which it has budgeted. Neuenswander said it also is possible that the additional tax rebate won't increase the district's unencumbered cash for the next school year, which traditionally would be the case.
He said that's because under new school funding proposals from Gov. Joan Finney and the Legislature, all unencumbered cash would go to the state on July 1 with the creation of a statewide mill levy.
For that reason, Neuenswander said, "I don't know why they (Wichita) would be excited" about the windfall.
PETER SAID there are two main reasons why the state has more school funds to allocate than earlier had been expected.
First, Finney had considered cutting state budgets across the board by 2 percent, but she ended up making only a 1 percent cut. That resulted in about $7.5 million in additional funding for school districts.
Also, Peter said, in an effort to keep down local property taxes, many districts decided not to levy the full budget authority granted them by the state. Because the state agrees to fund a certain percentage of each district's budget, the smaller district budgets meant the state had to allocate less state aid.