Gov. Joan Finney's May 1991 veto of a tax package that would have increased funding for Kansas public schools, sent Lawrence school board members scrambling in search of last-minute budget cuts.
State funding for Kansas schools is uncertain again this year, but the Lawrence school board is trying to be better prepared by getting an early start on examining the district budget.
Prior to each of its last two board meetings, the board has held hourlong study sessions to examine expenditures in such areas as classified personnel and additional assignments for teachers.
"It's more important than ever to take a good look at the budget because we don't have any idea what we're going to come up with in the Legislature this year," said school board member John Tacha. "Last year, we were learning about the budget items as we were making cuts."
School Board President Mary Loveland said district administrators "always have done thorough and months-long budget planning, but this is the first time we've been directly involved this early."
Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander said that since the board could be forced to do further budget slashing, it's appropriate that the board is looking at personnel costs.
"IF YOU'RE talking about a meaningful cut, you have to get into positions," Neuenswander said at the last board meeting.
Craig Fiegel, the district's director for business and facilities, said employee salaries make up about 85-90 percent of the district's entire budget.
By the time the district began searching for possible budget cuts last year, the April 1 deadline for notifying teachers of their rehiring already had passed, and the board had decided not to terminate anybody for budget purposes.
Tacha said that just because the board is looking at personnel now shouldn't cause teachers and other school employees to panic. He said some reduction in staff, if necessary, could be accomplished through normal attrition of teachers.
The board also is considering options in the district's $551,355 additional assignment budget, through which teachers are paid for such things as coaching sports and conducting musical groups. The district's extra duty budget, which pays teachers for supervising students during after-school activities, also is being examined.
BOARD MEMBER Tom Murray, who criticized the board for its spending policies while running for the board last spring, said, "I am very pleased that the board has taken the responsibility in a difficult year to examine as early as possible all the aspects of the budget."
"I would like to look at the budget as a process by which we find ways to make the budget equal to or less than what it was the previous year, if possible," Murray said. "As enrollment grows, expenditures will grow. But if more expenditures are needed, then cuts in other areas at least need to be considered."