Parkinson ready to make more spending cuts before Legislature convenes in January

? Gov. Mark Parkinson on Wednesday said he will likely cut the state budget again soon, which means schools should prepare for another round of reductions.

Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said his group has told school districts to get ready for more cuts.

In turn, Tallman said, districts are saying that it will be difficult to make additional cuts without hurting the education of Kansas schoolchildren.

“We understand cuts are likely but there is real concern that the deeper those cuts have to go, the harder it is going to be to maintain educational quality,” Tallman said.

Parkinson tipped his hand during a news conference, saying that tax receipts in September were disappointing and may require budget adjustments.

For the first quarter of the fiscal year, which started July 1, revenues have fallen $67 million below projections, a 5 percent shortfall.

Parkinson said he plans to make an announcement on the process to balance the books after budget experts meet next week to make a new revenue estimate.

He vowed to make cuts if necessary to balance the budget by the time lawmakers return for the 2010 session in January.

“I’m going to take all the heat,” said Parkinson, who cut the budget once on his own after the 2009 legislative session concluded.

Education is a big target because public school funding makes up half the state budget.

Already this year, school funding has been cut approximately $170 million with base state aid per pupil dropping 4.8 percent.

This follows two years of court-ordered funding increases. School districts that successfully fought the Legislature over funding have been considering whether to re-file the lawsuit in the face of recent cuts.

Many of those increased dollars over the past few years went to hiring staff and implementing programs to raise the educational level of children who were the most difficult to educate, Tallman said. Those will be the areas that will start getting cut, he said.