Topeka The state delayed paying some promised aid to public schools for a fourth straight month on Monday, leading a key legislator to call for fresh cuts in the state budget.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder said he worries the state is headed again toward a deficit on June 30, the end of its current fiscal year. He said continued delays in payments to Kansas’ 295 school districts are a sign of trouble.
Budget Director Duane Goossen confirmed that the state made only half of the $96 million in monthly aid payments owed the districts Monday. The remaining $48 million will be delayed until at least the end of this week.
Goossen said the state hasn’t yet made a quarterly,
$70 million payment due on Jan. 15 to the state pension fund for teachers and government workers. That payment — a contribution by the state toward school employees’ pensions — should be made this month, and the delay won’t affect current retirees, he said.
The state has delayed some of its school aid each of the past four months so it can continue to pay other bills on time, including state government’s payroll.
“It’s concerning to us that the executive branch is unable to pay bills,” said Yoder, an Overland Park Republican. “Clearly, we’re still spending more money than we can afford to spend.”
Educators also have been frustrated by the state’s continued late payments, which have forced some districts to do juggling of their own.
“There have been a couple of times when it’s been precarious, making payroll,” said Diane Gjerstad, a lobbyist for the Wichita school district. “You never know exactly when the state is going to make good with the check.”
Yoder’s committee expects to consider a Senate-passed bill this week to ratify some adjustments Parkinson made last year to keep the current budget balanced. The biggest would siphon $80 million away from highway projects to other programs.
But since Parkinson adjusted the budget in November — the fifth and final round of cuts and other changes last year — state tax collections have fallen $34 million, or 1.2 percent, short of expectations.
Rep. Bill Feuerborn, of Garnett, the Appropriations Committee’s ranking Democrat, agreed the revenue shortfall points up a need for more adjustments.
“Where do we cut?” he said. “I think we have to look at all agencies. I know it’s going to be difficult.”
But Senate President Steve Morris is skeptical legislators can impose more cuts so late in the fiscal year.
“No one on our side has talked about trying to do additional cuts,” said Morris, a Hugoton Republican.
In 2009, the state avoided a fiscal year-end deficit on June 30 by delaying $73 million in aid payments to schools from late June into July and postponing $31 million in tax refunds. Such steps are possible again this year.
“The question is, do we want to get ahead of the curve?” Yoder said. “I want to know if the governor is going to re-engage. Does he want to give us some guidance?”
Parkinson spokeswoman Beth Martino said the governor hasn’t been able to find further cuts that are responsible. “At this point, deeper cuts to state programs will jeopardize critical services that Kansans rely on every day,” Martino said.