Archive for Friday, February 1, 2002

Senate panel votes to cut state aid to schools

February 1, 2002

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— A Senate panel voted Thursday to cut state aid to public schools by $158 per pupil in the next fiscal year, but members said it was unlikely the reduction would become part of the final budget.

The action came as the state got more bad financial news. Preliminary figures showed the state collected $376 million in revenue in January, about $41 million less than expected.

"What the education community and others should concern themselves with is that without some additional revenues, there are some really difficult budget cuts coming up," State Budget Director Duane Goossen said.

The school-aid measure before the Senate Ways and Means subcommittee on education was part of the balanced-budget plan submitted by Gov. Bill Graves. By law, Graves had to outline a spending plan that assumed no new sources of revenue for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

However, Graves has also proposed increasing taxes $228 million to protect school districts from aid cuts.

Under Graves' balanced-budget plan, base state aid per pupil would fall $158, to $3,712 in the budget year that begins July 1. Total school aid would decline about $128 million, or 5.5 percent, to about $2.2 billion.

Senate President Dave Kerr, who chairs the education subcommittee, said the panel agreed to send the Graves plan to the full Ways and Means Committee because for now, it had no other proposal to work with.

"We just don't have any other numbers to use," said Kerr, R-Hutchinson.

Subcommittee member Jim Barone agreed, calling the action "a mechanical exercise."

"Any resemblance between the final school finance outcome and what is going on in the education subcommittee will be purely coincidental," said Barone, D-Frontenac.

The state's revenue collections have fallen short of expectations each month since November, when state officials and university economists made their latest forecast.

According to early figures, January's revenue collection puts the gap between the estimates and actual revenues at nearly $97 million for the first seven months of this fiscal year with collections of $2.29 billion, compared to an estimate of $2.38 billion.

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