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Archive for Friday, October 23, 2009

Legislator says payments to school districts may have to be reduced

Education knocks potential $70 million hole in state budget

October 23, 2009, 11:34 a.m. Updated October 23, 2009, 1:13 p.m.

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— New students in Kansas’ public schools and declining property values have punched what could become a $70 million hole in the state’s already shaky budget, a top education official confirmed Friday.

Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said Kansas faces being short in its ability to meet its legal obligations for providing aid to its 293 school districts during their current academic year. That’s true even though the state already has reduced its per-pupil aid by 4.8 percent this year.

It’s more bad news for state officials, who already must deal with lower-than-anticipated tax collections in July, August and September. They face lowering per-pupil aid to schools further, making cuts in other parts of the budget or even raising taxes.

“The total could be $70 million,” Dennis said during an interview with The Associated Press.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Emler said the school finance hole is only one budget problem the state faces. And, he said, he doubts Kansas can raise taxes quickly enough to plug any shortfalls because legislators don’t reconvene until January.

Emler, a Lindsborg Republican, predicted the state will be forced to adjust aid payments to schools.

“I don’t see any way around it,” Emler said. “I’m not going to try to sugarcoat this. We just don’t have the money.”

But Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, isn’t moving to impose cuts before legislators reconvene. Spokeswoman Beth Martino said the governor is waiting to see whether October tax collections meet expectations and for the state’s next financial forecast, which will be issued Nov. 5.

“It’s too early to make hasty decisions and panic,” Martino said.

The state distributes nearly $3 billion in aid to its public schools based on their enrollments. Kansas has a statewide property tax levy, but the bulk of the aid is covered by general tax revenues.

Kansas has seen four rounds of budget cuts and other adjustments this year to keep the state budget balanced through June 30, 2010. Schools lost $130 million and saw their base aid drop $215 per student.

Because of the economy, the taxable value of homes and commercial property declined about $500 million for 2009, or 1.7 percent, Dennis said. Tax bills this fall are based on those values.

Meanwhile, he said, the state saw enrollments rise at its schools this fall. There are about 2,500 new students, in addition to the 450,000 students schools already had, growth of about 0.6 percent.

But, Dennis said, schools also have seen applications for free-lunch programs jump an average of 11.5 percent. The state’s aid formula allows districts to inflate their enrollments for each student in such a program, because they’re considered at risk of failing and in theory need more attention.

In the Wichita district, the state’s largest, enrollment increased by 900 students and is now more than 50,000, the highest since 1975, said district lobbyist Diane Gjerstad.

More Wichita students also are seeking free lunches, which Gjerstad attributed to the economy. Aviation companies have been hit hard, and the four-county Wichita metropolitan area had 19 percent fewer manufacturing jobs in September than in September 2008 — a decline of 13,200.

“It is important for schools to maintain the safety net of services,” Gjerstad said. “We have more students walking through our doors today with greater needs.”

Dennis said schools report that some people are moving back to Kansas from other states to live with their families after losing jobs. He said some Kansans also may be pulling children out of private schools because they can’t afford the tuition, he said.

Comments

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

Maybe it's time to get rid of some administrative overhead by consolidating school districts. 300 superintendents at $150,000 per year is $45 million. Add bennies on top of that and it's probably closer to $60 million. That nearly fixes the shortfall all by itself, without touching per-pupil payments.

Kyle Chandler 5 years, 2 months ago

But then how would those poor administrators afford to pay for their teenage sons Lexus payments?

penguin 5 years, 2 months ago

ya not all of those Supers make that kind of money. In some smaller districts the Super often serves in at least one other admin position at the same pay.

I am not against consolidation, but I invite you to go into Victoria, KS and tell them it's time to merge with Ellis and Hays....then go to Smith Center and tell them its time to merge with Kensington and a few others. These are just a few I can think of at the moment. If they let you leave town then it might happen.

This town is still having a hissy fit that it has two high schools. This is nothing compared to the nail in the coffin this would be for these communities.

This consolidation talk is always about the schools out west...some that are consolidated now.

texburgh 5 years, 2 months ago

gccs & kyle show remarkable ignorance. First Kansas no longer has 300 school districts and secondly there are a number of rural school districts that already share superintendents. If you're going to attack, at least do it with facts. In addition while some make big salaries, most don't make $150,000. Again, use facts not BS when putting out your arguments.

Could more school districts share superintendents? Probably. Would it save $45 to $60 million? No. Primarily because gcccs does not advocate consolidation. He/she advocates elimination.

Let's use his/her logic: We could save billions in health care costs by just eliminating all insurance company and pharmaceutical CEOs. We could save lots of taxpayer money by eliminating all police chiefs and fire chiefs. That makes just as much sense as eliminating all superintendents.

Trust me, I'm no fan of superintendents. I thought Weseman was an idiot and the new guy is not much better. But no leadership is better? Not hardly.

And no, I am not a superintendent or even a school district employee. I'm just a parent who thinks the education of children - all children - is pretty darn important and the legislature needs to get off the stick and do what it takes to fund it.

No more excuses. No more big corporate tax breaks. No more idiotic sales tax exemptions. Start acting like legislators and get your lips off the backsides of Americans for Poverty.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 2 months ago

I say we cut payments to Sen. Emler and his cronies in the Statehouse until they CAN figure this stuff out.

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

Who said anything about closing schools? My point is that there is tremendous overhead in duplicating an administrative structure a few hundred times across the state. There are too many school districts and too many counties. The Internet and video conferencing can offer a high level of service without needing a physical administrative presence in every community.

Orwell 5 years, 2 months ago

Whatever we do, let's be sure we don't hit up the Kochs for any of their billions. That's the keystone of state policy – better we do without education than make them do without their eighteenth yacht.

doyourhomework 5 years, 2 months ago

What I'd like to know is of the 2500 students how many are illegal aliens??? Ooops, sorry, I meant to say "undocumented". My guess would be well over half. Also, where are the article's enrollment numbers of 450,000 coming from? According to the reports available on the KSDE website public school enrollment in 07-08 was 471,263 and 472,866 in 08-09? That's a difference of over 20K students. With budgets being so tight, it's about time school administrators stand up and fight back. Teachers, paras, and other school personnel are being cut in large part because of law-breakers! Welcome to the new America.

tomatogrower 5 years, 2 months ago

The undocumented workers are still paying rent to someone, who in turn pays property taxes. They also purchase food and other necessities, so they are doing as much as you to support the schools. Many are too afraid to file income taxes, so their refunds are never returned, so they might even be doing more than you. The children didn't come over here by themselves. Why punish them?

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