The Lawrence school district is preparing for two more rounds of cuts from the state in coming months that could bring the total budget shortfall to 10 percent of its operating budget.
“It really is getting brutal at this point,” Superintendent Rick Doll said.
The district has already cut more than $2 million and is looking at another $2.2 million to be slashed in December. That number includes cuts in weighted funding, such as that for at-risk students and English as a Second Language learners. With another cut expected in January before the Legislature returns to Topeka, Lawrence’s number could approach $6 million in total cuts for the 2009-2010 school year.
“That fundamentally changes the way we have to operate,” school board President Scott Morgan said.
However, the district leaders believe they can make it through this year by absorbing costs through their contingency fund and by keeping half the instruction and professional development budgets frozen.
“There will be instructional classroom supplies that are not purchased beyond the basics,” Doll said. “There’ll be lots of professional development that we need to do for our teachers to make them better teachers that are not going to happen.”
The contingency fund has about $6.3 million currently, but the district needs to keep about $4 million of that pool to make payroll for just its certified staff.
“It scares us because we don’t think the financial crisis is over because if the Legislature chooses not to enhance revenue, then they’re going to cut us again next summer,” Doll said. “Then what do you do without making draconian cuts to teachers and increasing class sizes?”
Adding one student to each classroom would save the district $1 million, but the additional student wouldn’t be across the board.
“What it means is that some class will end up with 34 kids in it and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Morgan said. “That’s how we get at it.”
The board has tried to protect the classroom as much as possible, but that luxury can’t be guaranteed as budgets get tighter.
“We have to balance the budget, and the state of Kansas has to balance their budget,” Doll said, “so there would be no choice.”