While Lawrence Virtual School students might not be present in the classroom, they were a big help to the Lawrence school district when it came to settling on a 2009-2010 budget.
The district will get another $1.6 million thanks to a quirk in the school finance formula. The district is able to average the last three years of enrollment to set its full-time equivalency. That number is higher thanks to one year where LVS students were included in the head count with brick-and-mortar kids.
“We actually get to count our virtual kids in a way that actually adds a little more money to the budget for this year,” Superintendent Rick Doll said.
That means the district will get more base state aid than officials originally thought. It also means no more cuts — for now.
“We now have this one-time budget authority that’s going to let us put that off just a little bit,” said Kathy Johnson, finance division director. “This three-year average is only going to have a one-year impact. It’s not something we can plan on for ongoing costs, but it helps us with this budget cut we got midway.”
LVS students were counted in the 2007-2008 district enrollment numbers before the state moved them to a separately counted group with a weighted full-time equivalency. Enrollment that year for the district was 10,208. For this past school year, full-time equivalency was 9,349 students. The three-year average is 9,674 students.
But chief operations officer Frank Harwood warned that if the money is spent, cuts will come eventually.
“(The money has) made it so we didn’t have to make those cuts this year, but if nothing changes, we will have to make them next year,” Harwood said.
So the district is being careful, implementing a rolling hiring freeze and only releasing half of the schools’ instructional budgets and half of its professional development budgets at the start of the school year.
The district is also getting some state equalization aid this year, something that Johnson said the district hadn’t gotten in many, many years. This means the district won’t have to raise its mill levy like it originally thought.
A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. That valuation has gone down a little bit as property values have declined.
A budget hearing is planned for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive, followed by a budget approval at 7 p.m.