Archive for Sunday, January 10, 2010

District exploring options to bridge $4M gap

January 10, 2010


District exploring options to bridge $4M gap

How much money can be saved if the district increases its student-teacher ratio by one student? How much does it cost to run each elementary school? The answers to those questions — and many more — will be provided to the Lawrence school board at a study session Monday. Enlarge video

How much money can be saved if the district increases its student-teacher ratio by one student? How much does it cost to run each elementary school?

The answers to those questions — and many more — will be provided to the Lawrence school board at a study session Monday afternoon. The information will help the board make decisions on how to fill a $4 million budgetary gap heading into the 2010-11 school year.

“It (Monday) will be the first opportunity for the board as a whole to receive all the possibilities as to where we can find $4 million,” board President Scott Morgan said. “That’s going to be a long laundry list.”

Two ways to save large chunks of money are placing more students in each classroom and closing schools.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that … every class in the district gets one more kid. It’s actually impossible to implement it that way,” Superintendent Rick Doll said. “We have looked at other issues that don’t generate as much savings but are still important.”

Those other measures include administrative costs, district office costs, transportation, custodial maintenance and food service.

“These are fairly desperate times, and so we’re looking at some pretty desperate measures,” Morgan said.

On top of having to cut $4 million for next school year, the board also had to find the money for a $3 million mid-year cut announced by the state in December. The board used $1 million from the district’s contingency fund; $1 million in carryover funds; and $500,000 in other frozen budgets. But board members still need to find $500,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June.

“Those are primarily going to come from jobs, either unfilled jobs that people have left or actual pink slips where we let people go this semester who are not under contract,” Morgan said.

And while the board has until July 1 to find the $4 million in cuts, Morgan hopes the board can get it done as soon as possible.

“My hope is to do this within the next two months so if we are, and we will be, letting teachers go, that we give them as much notice as possible so they can look for jobs elsewhere,” Morgan said. “And if we’re closing schools, then we tell families as early as possible so they can start adjusting to that reality.”

Adding to budget woes, the state announced last week that payments to Kansas school districts totaling $200 million would be late for a third consecutive month.

“It sure appears that we always have to have enough to make payroll because this is becoming a monthly occurrence,” Doll said. Lawrence’s monthly payroll is about $5.5 million. “It’s not just a couple days late. Sometimes now it’s weeks late. We sure want to pay our people on time.”

Neither Morgan or Doll is expecting the board to make any final decisions about cuts during Monday’s meeting, but cuts are inevitable.

“It’s not choosing between do we close a school or not close a school,” Morgan said. “It’s between do we close a school or do we fire this many teachers or do we get rid of this many activities. ... There’s a lot of bad things that we will be choosing from.”

The board’s study session will be from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday. The regular meeting starts at 7 p.m.


youngjayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

I would encourage the school board to consider the savings if the school day was lengthened & the calendar year shortened. Communities across the nation have done this and saved substantial amounts of money. I would encourage the board to cut administrative and learning coach positions. Move the 6th graders to middle school & 9th graders to high school. I encourage the community to step up and offer creative solutions to this issue that impacts all of us. Explore what has worked in other districts and adopt their ideas.

leftylucky 7 years, 9 months ago

Cut payroll 5 per cent. Close administration center. Move administrators into schools with low enrollment. Sell administration center. Publish school district capital outlays. Sell all excess land before closing schools. Publish administration salaries. Publish salaries of district teachers and their benefits.

kugrad 7 years, 9 months ago

I'd like to respond to the first two comments above. Re: the first one- This is a good idea, but it won't save anywhere even close to the 4 million mark. I do think the district should more actively look for savings other districts have found, including districts outside KS, but I don't think they'll find any big revenue savings there.

As for the second post: By law, salary cuts must be negotiated. I doubt that would play well, but cuts could be presented as a package with a reduced number of work days, which would make it more palatable. All the information you requested can be found or requested from the district. The only thing I'm not 100% sure of is teacher salaries, but you can find administrative salaries and the teacher salary scale. The benefits for teachers are uniform - insurance is paid for full time employees. If they want their family or children, the employee picks up all the extra cost. I'm not sure if the poster realizes that selling distict assets won't do a single thing to solve this problem. By law, the proceeds of the sale of district buildings and land must go back into the capital outlay fund, not the general operating budget. However, it is the general fund that must be cut $4 million. So this would not generate any savings that could be used to solve this crisis. The savings from closing schools would come from not replacing the positions that are eliminated and reduced maintanence and utilities, all of which come from the general fund.

Godot 7 years, 9 months ago

"Law" appears to be prohibiting the school board from taking necessary steps to solve the budget problem. "Law" can, and should be, changed.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Selling the admin building and all the land they own could help. The millions could be applied to the backlog of school maintenance which looks like approximately $16.5 million.

Yet USD spent approximately $20 million on athletics capital outlay over maintaining existing resources....why? This huge expenditure should have been put to the voters for approval!

How to help solve salary problems? USD 497 needs a long term solution which the closing of schools does not provide. Closing of schools should be approved by voters.

Scott Morgan closed schools in his first tenure which ultimately did not save money nor did it fix the same problem. Mr Morgan was voted out of office for his actions on closing schools which says the district wants its schools.

In a 2003 poll 80% of 5,198 citizens supported the idea of a sales tax to support teacher salaries.

I say this poll is quite significant considering the number of citizens who took the time to participate. 80% approval of out of 5,198 votes is substantial. 5,198 voters may well be the largest number ever recorded in this local poll source.

USD 497,the city and county should support this plan. It could be labeled a USD 497 user fee and/or an economic growth fee. New business likes to locate in excellent school districts. This is a long term solution which could possibly reduce the cost of school fees as well.

New York school is a paid for resource in which a fair amount of USD 497 tax dollars was spent on this building in the recent past. Why throw this money away?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Most of us know that capital outlay funding cannot be spent on operational expenses.

Every neighborhood in Lawrence should come in support of keeping neighborhood schools open and operating. Why?

  1. Smaller classes typically produce the most desired results

  2. The school district cannot be managed like a private business OR according to ones private beliefs about taxes.

  3. Where are the eastside students going to be placed? In the westside classes thus expanding the population of each classroom???

  4. Do USD 497 taxpayers want to be billed for a larger central location which will be very very expensive and may never payback the community.

  5. Why not keep using schools that which are paid for and keep paying back by the mere virtue that they are paid off.

6.Closing schools to build a new larger building is very brown thinking. It puts more traffic on the roads and takes away from the walkable community thinking(keeping our children healthy). Simply NOT forward thinking.

  1. It's time for taxpayers to demand a vote on this issue! It is OUR money!

How many ways could public schools obtain tax dollars to sustain the necessary funding?

There is this 1994 sales tax that has been around for a long time and will be around for many many years to come. It is dominated by the park department.

8.Why not borrow money from this substantial tax dollar pie and pour some tax dollars into the public school system. A few high dollar park projects could be put on the back burner and/or accomplish them at a slower pace. This money can legally be used for many things.

  1. What's more important new expensive park projects or our public education system? I say place new projects on hold and proceed with them on a new schedule. Do what needs to be done in the interest of public education. This tax dollar money will be around after most of us are in our graves so it's not like the park department will die and projects will not get finished.

  2. It's time for taxpayers to demand a vote on this issue! It is OUR money!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Not all board members support closing down New York School which is the fiscally responsible position.

New York School - Consider enrolling your children

New York School is a beautiful paid for asset with a great teaching staff. It makes no sense for the taxpayers to close a school that is paid for. In the last few years a fair chunk of USD 497 tax dollars were laid out making quite a capital improvement to New York School.

There is simply little respect for USD 497 tax dollars and existing USD 497 existing resources.

Since when can taxpayers afford to lose a public school? It makes no sense.

Relieve the over crowding in some of the newer schools by enrolling students in New York School.

Contrary to popular belief children are not invincible and will be impacted by this move.

Property owners in the area will lose 10% of property value by this decision according to Kirk McClure. Property owners cannot afford this, the city and county cannot afford to lose the property tax dollars and obviously USD 497 cannot afford to lose tax dollar revenue.

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.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

School closure is a very important issue; the maintenance of neighborhood schools is crucial to the preservation and revitalization of neighborhoods.

Families will not locate in nor invest in neighborhoods without schools in close proximity for their children. Without families, the chances that a neighborhood will maintain its value are low.

Research in the Journal of Urban Economics (one of the nation’s top academic journals) finds that when neighborhood schools are closed, property values drop by about 10 percent.

Kirk McClure



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 values

weeslicket 7 years, 9 months ago

i am scott morgan, and i'm here to shutter your schools. i've done it before (with pride), and i'll do it again. and then, i'll run for statewide office.

weeslicket 7 years, 9 months ago

school finance laws in kansas are truly a disaster.
courage and leadership from topeka would be helpful, although i'll not hold my breath on that.

as for "consolidation" of schools, i would be more understanding of this notion if past school boards and superintendents had actually spent capital outlay money on improving/expanding some of the smaller school buildings; instead of building 4 athletic fields and looking to purchase more land for future expansions. eh??

Kontum1972 7 years, 9 months ago

i thought the kansas Lottery was suppose to off-set the expenses where has the money gone from this...there have been some winners with a few bucks here in kansas..

classclown 7 years, 9 months ago

Whenever their is a story about school finances someone invariably brings up the lottery.

I did not live here when the Kansas Lottery was started so I have no idea how it was sold to the public, but the following link from their website explains where all the proceeds go.

I concede that changes may have been made, but while i do see some educational benefit, I don't see anywhere where K-12 was ever intended to be a beneficiary.

Perhaps when they said proceeds would be used for education people just assumed their local school districts would be awash with all that money which appears to never have been the case.

classclown 7 years, 9 months ago

Aaahhh! typo alert***

'Whenever their is a story... ' should read 'Whenever there is a story...'

kugrad 7 years, 9 months ago

Godot, I agree that the laws could be changed or at least temporarily amended to get through this problem. However, the state legislature isn't open to the idea at the present. They don't even want to let schools use capital outlay to pay utilities and such as that. So, while I like the idea, the chance of it being a fix anytime soon is pretty negligible.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

USD 497 has $7,000,000(million) in a contigency fund. How many other contingency funds do they have?

4getabouit 7 years, 9 months ago

Make "merrill" the superintendent and the city manager. Apparently, he has all the answers but is unwilling to step into the arena. What a blowhard.

KSManimal 7 years, 9 months ago

The problem is not USD 497, it's the state legislature. They have failed to perform their constitutional obligation to provide financing for public education. Not only have they failed to provide anywhere near the level of funding necessary to meet their own definition of "suitable", but now they have, for three months in a row, delayed payments by weeks or months.

How well could YOU all manage your personal finances if your employer decided to cut your salary by 10% mid-year, and then repeatedly pay your anywhere from a week to a month late? Not too well, I'd imagine. Yet, that's EXACTLY what the state has done to school districts.

All things considered, I'd say USD 497 is doing a damn good job of things. At least they've been able to meet their own payroll (so far). Not all districts have even done that.

Be sure to aim your wrath where it belongs - 25 miles west of Lawrence, under that big green dome.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 9 months ago

"How much money can be saved if the district increases its student-teacher ratio by one student? How much does it cost to run each elementary school?"

The teachers unions and defenders of the status quo don't want these questions asked. Better to keep everything the way it is and simply hope things miraculously get better.

finance 7 years, 9 months ago

"Be sure to aim your wrath where it belongs - 25 miles west of Lawrence, under that big green dome."

The big green dome, that didn't start out tarnished; just through predictable neglect, was allowed to become tarnished through lack of attention and polishing. Imagine what this state could be if only a little polish were applied. A shining bright light, instead of an embarrassing green scummy surface on America.

Maxandwillie 7 years, 9 months ago

Its a very tough situation. It seems the entirety of the students of the district need to be considered instead of small pockets of kids within neighborhood schools.

In the perfect world all neighborhoods would have schools that kids could walk to. Unfortunately that is not realistic in this economic climate. My kid goes to Quail Run and we live north of Hyvee on 6th st. its not perfect for us, but the education is solid.

On another note, the state needs to take this oppty and force some school districts to consolidate that are too small. The smallest districts get considerable more $ per pupil than the larger districts. spead the pain.

kugrad 7 years, 9 months ago

settingtherecordstraight (not), please refrain from commenting on topics you know nothing about. Not one word that you wrote is true.

You said "The teachers unions and defenders of the status quo don't want these questions asked. Better to keep everything the way it is and simply hope things miraculously get better. "

What an ignorant comment. The LEA is not a defender of the status quo, and I don't really know of any group of any size whose goal is to maintain the status quo. The LEA is not to blame for this mess, that is for sure. The LEA actively tries to get people to contact their legislators and encourage them to fix this mess, which I am sure is a lot more than you contribute. I'm sorry to be rude, but at this late point in this crisis I'm getting really tired of ignorant comments and knee-jerk reactions from uninformed people.

The questions you referred to were these,"“How much money can be saved if the district increases its student-teacher ratio by one student? How much does it cost to run each elementary school?”

The student-teacher ratio is a building staffing ratio, NOT a class-size ratio. In other words, it does NOT mean raising the size of each class by one. The answer to the question posed is about $1 million dollars per increase of 1 student (keeping in mind that people are fired when you do this). The cost of running schools varies by size. The primary cost is personnel, and you probably won't find figures on operating just the building, as staff costs are part of doing that. You can probably count on a $400,000 savings by closing a school, but it all depends on what school.

lounger 7 years, 9 months ago

C'mon now you know the drill-Tax and legalize marijuana in this town and lo and behold a huge bump in cashola!! It never hurts to try-ey???

Paul R Getto 7 years, 9 months ago

swan_diver "The criminally-negligent morons who are running USD 497 have learned a thing or two from the banking and insurance industry's daylight theft of the nation's future. They're thinking globally — and acting locally. Justice would be served by making these incompetent, self-serving 'public servants' pay personally and professionally for the long-term devastation they've bestowed upon the community, and its children." === S.D. You are a rare and informed citizen who must do your duty and go to the board with these allegations. Stand up and say, "Hi, my name is Swan_Diver (SSN --- --- ----) and I need to help you rid the district of these criminals. Please do your duty and help us all to save USD 497. Tape your board meeting appearance, put it on You-Tube and it won't be long before Sarah Palin invites you to her new Fox Network Show. Thank you for bringing this to our attention; now, please do your civic duty.

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