Supt. Randy Weseman said Friday the Lawrence school district would begin work on the 2003-2004 budget under the assumption expenses will have to be cut another $1.5 million.
A second year of multimillion-dollar reductions in state funding probably will require deletion of cherished programs and cuts in the 1,700-employee payroll. With salaries and benefits consuming 85 percent of the district's budget, layoffs are likely.
"There isn't anything left that people will say, 'I think we can live without that,'" Weseman said. "It's going to cause a lot of angst among people."
Weseman attended two days of meetings this week in Topeka with legislative leaders and superintendents of the state's 10 largest public school districts. The consensus was that $34.6 million in supplemental appropriations due to select districts in the state won't be funded by the 2003 Legislature.
Instead of requiring only a portion of Kansas districts to absorb a big cut, Weseman said lawmakers probably would make all public school districts share the pain. That would cost the Lawrence district $23 in per-pupil aid.
Added to the $27 in per-pupil funding retracted by Gov. Bill Graves in August, the district can expect to have $50 less in base aid next school year than it started with this year.
If Weseman's assumptions are accurate, the district would get $3,840 in base aid from the state for each of its 10,000 students. The amount is equal to what the district received five years ago.
That's why Weseman said he would recommend Monday that the school board begin budget deliberations assuming it needs to find $1.5 million in savings to meet rising insurance, utility, transportation and salary costs.
"It's a very gloomy picture," he said. "People will have to prepare for a reduction in services."
He'll also ask the board to convene an early January study session on the budget situation. The board needs to draft guidelines for the district's budget committee to use while searching for areas to target cuts. The board also must determine whether sections of the budget will be off-limits.
In the current budget year, the board agreed to $3.2 million in fee increases and spending cuts to balance the budget.