Bad budgetary news
Kansas' state government budget picture has turned gloomier in recent days.
Here are some of the most recent developments:
Nov. 4 -- State budget experts decrease revenue projections, noting a sharp downturn in the economy. They say if nothing is done, officials could be looking at a nearly $1 billion deficit by the next fiscal year.
Nov. 5 -- Gov. Kathleen Sebelius orders 3 percent cut in state agencies, and higher education. She says deeper cuts will probably be needed in the future.
Nov. 12 -- Sebelius' budget office recommends $114.4 million cut to higher education. Transportation Secretary Deb Miller postpones work on $209 million worth of highway projects because of budget uncertainties.
Nov. 13 -- Officials confirm public schools would face budget cut under proposal by governor's budget office.
Funding to Kansas public schools would face a cut under a proposal made by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' budget office, officials said Thursday.
The current fiscal year budget would be cut $11 million, from $3.246 billion to $3.235 billion. And the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2009, would face another cut of approximately $1.5 million.
Those reductions may not seem like a lot relative to the overall school budget, but education advocates point out that under current state law, schools were supposed to get an increase in funding of approximately $150 million.
State Board of Education Chairman Bill Wagnon, D-Topeka, said failure to provide that increase would have a negative effect on students.
He said recent increases in school funding have led to better academic achievement by many students. Now, more funding is needed, to raise up the level of other students, he said.
"That is my real fear. The resources needed to meet the increasingly difficult challenges are just simply not going to be there," Wagnon said.
A large portion of those proposed increases, which already are written into law, are linked to Kansas Supreme Court-ordered increases in funding for at-risk and special education students. The court decision followed a lawsuit by school districts that claimed the state failed to adequately fund education.
"If the Legislature were not to fund the school finance law, that would have implications then on the lawsuit," said Mark Tallman, spokesman for the Kansas Association of School Boards.
The proposal by Sebelius' budget office is not a final recommendation. Sebelius will propose a budget to the Legislature when the 2009 session starts in January.
But the downturn in the national economy has hit the state budget hard.
State budget experts say lawmakers could be facing a $1 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year.
Sebelius has said she wants to protect public school and social service funding, but together that makes up about three-fourths of the state budget.
Lawrence School Superintendent Randy Weseman said the district will adjust to whatever the Legislature decides. But he said a reduction in funding or flat funding would produce problems because costs are going up for employee health insurance and in other areas.
"We're in times where everybody is going to have to tighten up. We've done this before," he said. "I've been kind of waiting for the ax to fall. I just don't know how far down our neck it's going to go," he said.