Archive for Monday, February 8, 2010

Audit looks at school district consolidation

February 8, 2010, 1:04 p.m. Updated February 8, 2010, 1:05 p.m.


— State legislators who are hungry for ways to stretch tax dollars in the current budget crisis received a report Monday that said merging school districts could produce savings.

But those consolidations also could cause problems, according to the report by the Legislative Division of Post Audit.

The audit was neutral on whether the state should require districts to consolidate.

Because of slumping tax revenue, state officials cut the budget by $1 billion last year, and are now facing another $400 million revenue shortfall.

Many lawmakers see potential to save tax dollars by merging some of the state’s 293 school districts.

Auditors agreed. “The analyses we performed in this audit showed that reorganizing the system so there are fewer school districts has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of the system overall,” the audit said.

The report developed two consolidation scenarios. In one, the number of districts would be reduced to 266, and in the other, districts with fewer than 1,600 students would be merged, reducing the number of districts to 152.

The proposals would save $18 million and $138 million, respectively, the audit said.

But those savings would come with a cost. More students would have to be transported and travel longer distances, and some districts would need new buildings. Many districts would lose more money in state funding than they would save by reducing operating expenditures, the report said.

“Equally significant issues would need to be addressed before any widespread reorganization could happen, including the impact on students, individual districts and local communities,” the audit said. The audit added that any potential for cost savings from consolidation “should be viewed as a long-term investment.”

Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said most of the report’s findings have been well-known to legislators. There are financial incentives for districts to consolidate voluntarily and, Dennis said, “The Legislature has been hesitant to mandate this (consolidation) in the past.”

Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, who is chairman of the Legislative Post Audit Committee, said it was politically difficult to force districts to merge.

“We’re just not going to see a huge consolidation effort that we saw in the 1960s,” he said.


Julie Craig 8 years ago

I like the idea of reducing the number of congressional districts in Kansas to save money on legislative salaries. How 'bout that?

headdoctor 8 years ago

That is just the State version of smoke and mirrors and passing the load from income, sales and other taxes to a more heavy load on property tax. Figures may not lie but liar's figure. By the time they consolidate the districts, pay administrators more money for the work load, move a few of the teachers around, build or add on to increase various buildings for more students, pay increased busing costs, and other incidental fees they will not save that much money overall. Kansas has been very interested in preserving smaller communities and have pumped money in some areas to do so. Once a town looses its schools the town will soon suffer shortly there after potentially causing another drag on the State economy. There are a lot of areas in the Western half of the state have already been consolidated and the smaller schools shut down. I guess this is a wonderful plan if you want to destroy the lower populated economies and push some to hop across the State line to live elsewhere.

BadLlama 8 years ago

Let's destroy every small community in western Kansas. Great idea, glad to see our legislators have our best interests at heart.

headdoctor 8 years ago

BadLlama (Anonymous) says… Let's destroy every small community in western Kansas. Great idea, glad to see our legislators have our best interests at heart.

Yup, it sure is wonderful to own a $40k to $80k house and paying property tax on it one day. The next you have no schools, no grocery store, and you couldn't sell your house for $5k. That is our State Government's idea of prospering Kansas. I guess all you people in the more populated areas better get ready to reach deeper into your pocket. The money has got to come from somewhere.

texburgh 8 years ago

Headdoctor: It is not "our State Government's idea of prospering Kansas." It is the Koch brother's Americans for Prosperity idea of prospering Kansas. The Koch brothers and their three institutions - Americans for Prosperity, Kansas Policy Institute, Center for Applied Economics - have bought the Republican majority. They will destroy communities all over Kansas. "The better to drill you with, my dear!" to quote a famous Kansas themed film.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

What the audit fails to reveal:

Property owners in the areas of closed public schools will lose 10% of property value by this decision according to Kirk McClure. Property owners cannot afford, the city cannot afford to lose the property tax dollars and USD 497 cannot afford the loss.

Who is Kirk McClure?

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973. =========================================


What determines the price of real estate? Location. Location. Location. This cliché is a good starting point for a discussion of property values and public choices, for it leads to the question why property values vary in different locations.

Most property owners know from experience that similar properties in different neighborhoods can command vastly dif- ferent prices. But many may not realize that public choices can have large effects on property values. Public choices about capi- tal investments, public services, and taxation affect property val- ues because their impacts vary in different places.

A new highway interchange, for example, generally increases the value of nearby property because it increases its accessibility.

Conversely, a decision to close a school or a neighborhood police station may decrease the value of property in the neighbor- hood.

In public policy debates, moreover, decision makers often lack information about how their choices will affect property value

headdoctor 8 years ago

texburgh (Anonymous) says… Headdoctor: It is not “our State Government's idea of prospering Kansas.” It is the Koch brother's Americans for Prosperity idea of prospering Kansas. The Koch brothers and their three institutions - Americans for Prosperity, Kansas Policy Institute, Center for Applied Economics - have bought the Republican majority. They will destroy communities all over Kansas. “The better to drill you with, my dear!” to quote a famous Kansas themed film.

Thanks for elaborating for those who may not realize what has been going on in the background. I just made it rather simple in calling it "Our State's Government". Since it is the actions or in actions from the Governmental body that regardless of what may influence the various outcomes, we are stuck dealing with the results.

Stephen Roberts 8 years ago

Merrill - once again who cares about Kirk McClure????? Not me-

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Another issue the audit fails to discuss:

lost jobs impact of lost jobs on the local economy *how much will be spent on new construction = reckless spending of tax dollars

  • considering the above taxpayers are in the hole aka minus column

anonyname 8 years ago

Why not consider consolidating counties instead? There's absolutely no reason to have 105 counties now that we don't need to worry about how long it takes to get to the county seat by horseback. Consolidating county governments and the many lower-level courts would create considerable savings, even with the added staff needed at the offices of the new counties.

New York has 57 counties. California has 58. Surely we don't need that many, much less over 100.

Bob_Keeshan 8 years ago

anonyname (Anonymous) says…

Why not consider consolidating counties instead?

Indeed. Counties provide indirect services to citizens, services which are not typically accessed on a daily basis and which are not geographically sensitive.

School districts, on the other hand, are often tied directly to school buildings. If you look at the audit, almost all of the proposed "savings" comes not from consolidating districts but from closing schools.

It is nonsensical. The question before Post Audit was not how to close schools, it was how to consolidate the administrative functions of school districts.

This audit was a massive failure, just as Post Audit's attempts at auditing individual districts have been.

John McCoy 8 years ago

The Koch's intent is to destroy public schools anyway. Like most R wingnuts, they want to privatize everything. Shame they have such a stranglehold on Kansas politics. Their three organizations contribute lots of $ to state legislators.

gccs14r 8 years ago

Right. Just because school districts consolidate doesn't mean that actual schools have to close. It may make sense to consolidate some schools, too, but that should be done only where it's necessary.

Does it make sense to have more school districts than we have counties? Some legislator suggested consolidating down to 13 counties. We could consolidate school districts to one per county at the same time. 13, instead of 293. Even with no school closings, that would save a couple of million dollars per year just in district superintendent costs.

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