Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lawrence school district preparing to deal with $3 million loss

March 30, 2011


Lawrence school district expects to fill its $3 million budget hole for next year without laying off a single teacher or eliminating a single program.

District administrators are making preliminary plans to tap into contingency funds, absorb a diploma-completion program, extend a cut to “non-wage” budgets, maximize bulk purchases and trim a single teaching position from the expanding staffs at each of the high schools.

That — plus closing Wakarusa Valley School at the end of this school year — would be expected to put the district on track to account for all but an estimated $113,000 in projected cuts, a total that administrators figure they might be able to cover by dropping some assistant coaches and trimming finances for other extracurricular activities.

That’s the preliminary take, anyway.

“I don’t want to say it’s a Band-Aid approach, but it’s a method by which we can meet the reduction and not have a significant effect on programs,” said Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford, a member of the Lawrence school board, who is in line to become the board’s president in July. “I think it’s a reasonable plan right now.”

The district expects to start the 2011-12 school year with $3.015 million less than it opened this academic year with, at least when it comes to base state aid per pupil. That’s the money that continues to be cut by the Kansas Legislature as the state continues to grapple with budget problems of its own.

To make ends meet, the district would tap:

• $750,000 from the district’s $6.8 million in contingency funds.

• $750,000 from budget credits — that’s revenue from gym rentals, Medicaid reimbursements and other sources — and leftover, unspent money from other funds throughout the district.

• $512,000 by imposing a 25 percent cut in non-wage budgets, such as those for buying paper, financing professional development activities and handling expenses at each individual school.

• $487,000 by closing Wakarusa Valley School, a decision the board approved Monday night.

• $215,000 by taking over the Lawrence diploma completion program, folding the operation now run by private contractors into the district’s existing administration.

• $106,413 from eliminating two teaching positions, one at each high school. The plan would be to leave one position open at each school, as the district fills teaching slots for the arrival of ninth-graders on campuses this fall. Officials say that because ninth-graders will be going from four schools to two, there would be less need for the two positions.

• $100,000 by “maximizing” bulk purchases, such as for paper towels, toilet paper and some food service items.

The remaining $113,000 in cuts remain unidentified, but administrators said they would be able to bring forward some recommendations in the coming weeks.

Board member Bob Byers welcomes the budget information, but remains firm in his beliefs that the plan wouldn’t be enough, even though projections would put the district an estimated $18,000 in the black.

“It’s a good preliminary skeleton, but it really doesn’t have a lot of meat on it,” Byers said.

Byers would prefer to close two more elementary schools for next year: Cordley and then either Hillcrest or Sunset Hill schools. There’s room to close those schools and still not produce overcrowding in the district, he said, and the closures would prevent the need to make expensive renovations or upgrades to make them work.

Spending contingency and other “one-time” funds, he said, simply puts off the inevitable.

“Folks, put on your big-boy pants and let’s make the decisions we need to make,” said Byers, who has two years remaining on his term. “We need to close schools and restructure, and we need to update some schools. But we don’t want to update any schools that we know we’re going to close.”

Vanessa Sanburn, who also has two more years on her board term, would prefer to keep the other schools open until they can be considered as part of a longer-term plan for consolidations and upgrades. Spending contingency money now to get there makes sense.

“You have in your mind that you’re saving and you’re saving and you’re saving, and now you want to spend?” Sanburn said. “Well, now I do think it’s the time.”


Patty Buchholz 7 years ago

I am at a loss as to why the task force did not come up with other options. They only gave one recommendation and that was to close Wakarusa. The board should have had the option of Cordley and one other school. Perhaps Mr. Minder should not have been on the task force so he would not influence the recommendation, or at the least he could have chose not to cast a vote. We know where his interests are. If they really want to save money, close Cordley at the end of this year. The board should think of the community as a whole and what is best for all, not just Mr. Minder's neighborhood. I have it, maybe a SOW group(save our Wakurusa) would have influenced the board more.

GMom05 7 years ago

Minder was soundly called out on his conflict of interest at the board meeting and chose to ignore the accusation and voted anyway. A SOW group wouldn't have had enough voting power to make anything happen. It is an election year after all! That's all that matters. Not the kids and not the community schools. Not even the budget shortfall.

imastinker 7 years ago

What was the conflict of interest that he was "soundly called out on?"

There are pretty clear guidelines for this given by the state.

really_ 7 years ago

Spinmama - Seriously???? Have you looked at any of the data, any of the numbers, any of the information regarding what Cordley needs to be up to par??? Ask a real question next time.

AnglNSpurs 7 years ago

According to Roberts Rules of Parliamentary Procedure, the President can only place a vote in the event of a tie.. So if the School Board follows these basic principals, then why was Minder allowed a vote?

Cogito_Ergo_Es 7 years ago

Yup! We'd have had plenty of room for SOW on our farm! So, can Byers really pull off another closure this year yet, so that our sacrifice is not in vain? Realistic people can see that this budget plan of their is nonsense. If there is this much fat in the budget they can find 500,000 more and keep all the schools open. And no, Vanessa, now is not the time to start spending more money.
The people of Wakarusa Valley were duped. We were LIED to. This was never about budget cuts. This was never about bettering USD 497 and the 11,000+ children in it. Really? What drivel. That's what Droll said in his letter home to the parents yesterday. A letter I guarantee you he wrote a month ago, grinning all the time. It doesn't in anyway better the lives of Wakarusa children. This was NEVER ABOUT SAVING $3M. They lied to the task force and wasted months of everyone's lives. They knew exactly where they were going to get this money and they led us on. They let us continue to meet and write letters and struggle with where it should come from. And when we directly asked them for numbers, when we specifically asked them where the $3M could possibly come from, our requests for answers were ignored. Mr. Doll and his cronies intended to close this school from the moment Doll walked in the door. They've known this outcome for months and instead of being straight forward, they played games with us. They toyed with us. We thought maybe this was a democratic process. Maybe the people you vote for will actually vote in a manner that justly reflects how you want to be represented. (Remember that when you vote April 5th folks.) But no, the numbers you get from admin are vague and ever changing. They say one thing and then another. Last year closing Wakarusa would save $371 now this year with half time staff we save $500K? They certainly didn't learn math at Wakarusa Valley. Even our second graders know that doesn't add up. This administration is underhanded, two-faced, and conniving. And many of the board members are as well. Why don't you all just man-up and say it? Some kids are more valuable than others. That's what your actions show. If you were able to find cuts of $2.5M that easily, you can't tell me you couldn't find 500K more and keep all schools open. You save $100K going to bulk purchasing, how many other inefficiencies in your offices can you find? You won't look, not any further than Wakarusa Valley anyway. I only hope Byers' Big-Boy pants are bigger than Morgan's grown-up pants.

Shardwurm 7 years ago

Using a paragraph now-and-then would help, especially while ranting.

GMom05 7 years ago

You're probably outraged that LJWorld hasn't put on Spell and Grammar check features yet, either! If you don't like the topic skip it. Isn't venting and questioning something most people do in this forum? I assume you read comments for more information and more opinions than are commonly offered in the articles.

Clevercowgirl 7 years ago

Another fine comment from Kennedy's finest. Has your brain gone moldy?

Kontum1972 7 years ago

what happened too all that kansas lottery money that was suppose to benefit the schools of our State...that was one of the selling points......for the vote?

How much did Kansas profit from the Lottery?

Scott Morgan 7 years ago

kontum, good question, now look into the watch I hold in my palm...........good, now you're getting sleepy, tick tock, tick tock, so sleepy, so tired, look at the palm, When I snap my fingers your question about the Kansas Lottery is now, does this taste like catfish.

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

Look for decreases in enrollment as private schools look to be a better option for those that can afford it. I'm almost always against throwing money at a problem, hoping that some of it will stick. Education is my exception.
More cuts = decreased enrollment = less funding = more cuts = decreased enrollment = less funding ..........

nut_case 7 years ago

Meh - just send them to the new library.

George_Braziller 7 years ago

Medicaid reimbursements aren't budget credits. It's reimbursement for services that have already been provided and paid for.

GMom05 7 years ago

"Lawrence school district expects to fill its $3 million budget hole for next year without laying off a single teacher or eliminating a single program." OOOH, way to go USD 497! For goodness sakes, you are CLOSING A SCHOOL! But, I guess that's not important.

Steve Dittmann 7 years ago

HEADLINE: "Lawrence school district preparing to deal with $3 million loss." or ALTERNATIVE: "Lawrence school district preparing to deal with 2.5% budget reduction."

Both are true statements, but which one sounds more sensational and dire?

$3 million might sound like a big number. But it's slightly less than 2.5% of the total budget. I think given the current economy, a 2.5% expenditure reduction is very reasonable. Most families and small businesses are cutting back their expenses by at least that much.

LJW... let's go for less sensationalism and more objective reasoning in your reporting. Our world is changing, and we must adapt.

PennyBrite 7 years ago

do away with the new "welcome" center. We did fine without it and even the teachers have been telling us it's just a cover to "save" certain people's jobs. How much is being spent on that??????

maudeandcecil 7 years ago

It is or almost is budget neutral, not a big cost at all.

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

Kontum1972 "what happened too all that kansas lottery money that was suppose to benefit the schools of our State...that was one of the selling points......for the vote? === The money was never 'promised' to education. How much did Kansas profit from the Lottery? === I bet not much, but it shouldn't be hard to find out. The companies who run them, like the casinos, take their cut off the top. Gambling is poor public policy anyway and not a good substitute for general tax increases. It's a tax on people (often not all that well off anyway) who flunked statistics. In any event, the schools should not seek a specific fund, like the lottery. If money is earmarked for a program, then the lottery take goes down, it just gives the legislature one more excuse to cut programs. "See, we gave you the +++++ money; now it's decreasing so you can do without."

Scott Morgan 7 years ago

Made in China, good question, now look into the watch I hold in my palm...........good, now you're getting sleepy, tick tock, tick tock, so sleepy, so tired, look at the palm, When I snap my fingers your question about the Kansas Lottery is now, does this taste like catfish.

LadyJ 7 years ago

The original Centennial school grounds should have been left alone so it could have been reopened if needed. Cordley students could have been moved over there and the Virtual school moved to Cordley. Bet they would have no problem with putting in an elevator then.

Has the test results shown yet whether the mold at Kennedy will force it to close? Have a neighbor that had black mold in his house and it was almost cheaper to knock it down and build a new house than get rid of the mold which was what he did.

irvan moore 7 years ago

i am pro teacher but i don't see how you can be proud of not laying off a single teacher but closing a school. they talk about the sacrifices everyone needs to make but it looks to me like we sacrificed one school that would have the least amount of resistance. don't close schools, quit building them and use the resources we have.

Stephanie Anderson 7 years ago

What about the teachers at Wakarusa Valley?

Irenaku 7 years ago

tick tock..New York or Kennedy will be next.

kugrad 7 years ago

Wilbur is so concerned about Lawrence, even though he doesn't live here. He knows all about Lawrence from his perch in Eudora.

xclusive85 7 years ago

With so many people being outraged about the school closing, they should focus on what they can do to get it reopened at a later date. Right now, nothing is going to change about the closure, at least I don't think it will.

Get out and support people running for school board that have the same interests as you do. Get a group, probably needs to be a huge group, and pressure the current and future school board members to dismiss Dr. Doll. Offer help with the search for a replacement. Demand that interview questions and answers be made public. If you do not support a candidate for that position, make your voice heard and make sure the board members know about it.

xclusive85 7 years ago

Thank you. I know a little about these types of issues. My father has been a school administer in the state for years. He took over two school districts with serious financial and educational problems. He helped to balance their budgets and raise test scores, graduation rates, and students persuing secondary education every year while at the same time decreasing the dropout rates. I love talking to him about issues like these and getting his point of view and what options may actually be present with all of the red tape that is present.

really_ 7 years ago

Dr. Doll told the parents March 2 that his contract was reinstated. That did not sit well with us because we thought, "that's wierd, his contract isn't even up until later in the year". Then we find out that the there was an "informal" meeting where the board told him they were pleased with his work, with his efforts and PLANNED to reinstate him the end of June. So, this board gets to keep him on since the new board does not start until July. Wow. Makes me mad just typing it! Oh, by the way, that was just yet another like for the good Dr. - who still sleeps at night.

really_ 7 years ago

I meant "lie" not like from the good Dr. Got to typing too fast.

trymeone35 7 years ago

Here we go again closing schools. And you wonder why are kids can't learn.. There are to many kids in each class as it is now... and yet you want to close yet another school... why don't you just bring are troops home instead.. That would free up a crap load of money.... My granddaughter cut her long hair, that was to her waist to her shoulders because they weren't watching them closely.. be glad it was her hair and not her eye or another child's eye.. Kansas is stupid closing all the schools . we pay for them to go to school , we pay for them to ride buses... and know you want to ship more kids around.. where do you think the parents will get money for there kids to ride a bus? you don't care its not you...The us is so far behind compared to other states and countries.. Instead of closing school we need to pay are teachers better...And yes they lied to all the parents they don't care it's not there children in these schools.......Kansas get your head out of your a$$... and start caring more about our children's right to have good schools and better education.

xclusive85 7 years ago

Well, whatever school you went to certainly failed you.

maudeandcecil 7 years ago

@ agl: My understanding is WV teachers will retain their jobs, but will be transferred to different schools. If there are teacher lay offs, the admininstration will act district wide and teachers with the least number of years teaching will be let go first. I'm not sure how other WV staff will be treated, however? WV already shares a principle with Broken Arrow, so he/she will likely remain in the district too.

Like others, I do question if the estimated savings from closing one school, particularly WV, can be realized. So much of a school budget is tied to staff and so many of the WV staff will continue to work in the district. My sense is that the board, district administrators, and task force really looked to WV for closure because of current WV enrollment being so small and that in order to fill it, you’d have to bus more children than they already do from in town, out of town. (Bussing children who live in town and closer to in-town schools is not an ethical way to increase enrollment at WV, in my opinion.) The fact is current year enrollment for WV is down from previous year and after 6 graders move out next year, enrollment really begins to look dramatically low without a reasonable solution to increase it in the near future.

Obviously, by virtue of their geographic proximity to critical mass of students, low enrollment issues at other district schools, such as New York, are more easily remedied by consolidation and/or boundary changes.

To my way of thinking, the closure of WV is equally an action to address current year budgetary issue as it is an action to address long term enrollment issues in the district. Task Force identified 300 to 500 as a target enrollment for all Lawrence elementary schools. This strikes me as a reasonable and necessary goal for addressing the short term budget crisis & long term planning.

Brock Masters 7 years ago

I have a question. How do you come to have a $7 million contingency fund? The only way I can see having one is if you had a surplus of funds in prior years.

Dave Trabert 7 years ago

Fred, you hit the nail on the head. School districts operate on a cash basis just like your checking account; the only way the balance increases is if more money is deposited than is spent. But the Contingency Fund is just one place districts can build up carryover reserves. Not counting Capital Outlay, Bond & Interest and Federal funds, USD 497 had $5.3 million in 'all other' unencumbered carryover funds at the end of the 2005 school year. Five years later (the beginning of this year) the total had jumped to $28.4 million.

The vast majority of that $23.1 million increase represents state and local tax dollars the district received to educate students in prior years but instead built up cash reserves.

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

Fred: This might help. "CONTINGENCY RESERVE FUND – This fund is authorized under law and recently increased by the Legislature from six percent to ten percent of the general fund for the purpose of allowing school districts to maintain an adequate contingency reserve for emergencies. Special Note: School districts are authorized to have a cash balance of ten percent of their general fund in the contingency reserve fund. Budgets submitted for the 2009‐10 school year indicate the statewide average carryover in the contingency reserve fund is 5.4 percent."

Among other things, this allows the board of ed to pay teachers and other employees when the state doesn't send out the money on time.

Lydia Diebolt 7 years ago

Mr. Minder's children don't attend Cordley. Get your facts straight!

Dirty_Hillbilly 7 years ago

"$215,000 by taking over the Lawrence diploma completion program, folding the operation now run by private contractors into the district’s existing administration"

Did nobody catch the fact that Harwood said this really wouldn't be a savings after all...rather the administration could simply do a better job at it running the program. The school district is really still looking to have to come up with over $300,000 in savings!

What Sanburn? Now your not ready to close more schools. Now you want to use contingency this because the issue is getting closer to affecting you and your family at Woodlawn. WHAT A JOKE THIS HAS ALL BECOME!

EJ Mulligan 7 years ago

One thing that WILL save money that no one is mentioning: drop the early dismissals every Wednesday. It is a waste of many things -- money being the most important in the current situation. Will someone please discuss this?

really_ 7 years ago

This has been mentioned. A lot of things have been mentioned. Have you been to the school board meetings? The board has dismissed what suggestions have been made - oh wait....aside from closing Wakarusa Valley!

Dirty_Hillbilly 7 years ago

Closing Wakarusa to pay for all day kindergarten now according to LJW. Not actually saving the money from the closure. Now tack that amount supposedly saved onto the $300,000 above and your getting awfully close to $1 million that needs to be saved...or does it really need to be saved at all...HMMMM!

TheEyeofUS 7 years ago

3 mil? Guess they should have started preparing for this very foreseeable budget cut before they decided to build a big new football stadium, baseball field, practice field and parking lot. All those things are really neat and all but now they have to close down a school because of the cut, apparently? Way to batten down the hatches public ed!

kugrad 7 years ago

Obviously you have not been paying attention to education finance at all. All of the capital outlays come from a different fund, BY LAW. The cuts are to the general budget - you can't move money from capital outlay into the general fund. It is against the law. Whether they build or don't build facilities has no impact of the amount of money available to cover the reduced funding.

If you pay no attention to education issues, you really shouldn't attack the school district, you don't know what you are talking about.

xclusive85 7 years ago

While you are correct about the differences in the funds, the capital outlay fund should have been spent on making sure the schools were ADA compliant and that the necessary maintenace was done. Also, the capital outlay fund should have been spent to decrease or eliminate the need for portables. After all, the school system is about education first and sports second, right?

Synjyn Smythe 7 years ago

"$3.015 million less than it opened this academic year with"

Doll consistently told the Elementary School Vision taskforce it was $3 million. Those at the meetings heard it. Anyone who's seen any of the documents relied upon by the taskforce and provided by the district can deny this. None of that should come as a surprise to anyone. The taskforce was limited to consideration of nothing beyond Elementary Schools, no other sources of that money.

What is reprehensible is that Doll stated at the hearing on Monday night that the taskforce was never told $3 million or any other number. This is nothing more than a lie! Very few of us would be able to tell such a blatant lie about something within the realm of our employment and not lose our jobs. Why should Doll be any different?

What is further reprehensible is that the district has at its disposal between $11 - $14 million in contingency funds which could be used to keep all the grade schools opened, and the taskforce was not given this information for consideration.

kugrad 7 years ago

I don't think your 11-14 million figure is correct. The district does not have that much money in the contingency fund.

Scott Morgan 7 years ago

good question, we need sport fields........hey take a peek

now look into the watch I hold in my palm...........good, now you're getting sleepy, tick tock, tick tock, so sleepy, so tired, look at the palm, When I snap my fingers your question about the Kansas Lottery is now, does this taste like catfish.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

Vote Tuesday April 5

Vote Tuesday April 5

skinny 7 years ago

Time to go back to the one room school house with a computer at each desk!

BruceWayne 7 years ago

if Backwards Brownback has his way we will.

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

Welcome to the new middle ages, brought to you here in KochKansas by the American Taliban, local chapter, Mullah Sam presiding.

GMom05 7 years ago

"KUGrad-I don't think your 11-14 million figure is correct. The district does not have that much money in the contingency fund"

Yes, actually they do. There is 14 million, but only 6.8 is available in unrestricted funds. There are subaccounts of the contingency fund earmarked for special ed, or any other long list of items. They could use some of any of it they just have to be able to justify it's use for that particular area of education. The 6.8 is completely unrestricted.

GardenMomma 7 years ago

The way I see it, the Task Force recommends a target school population of between 300-500. The board wants to close more schools. Why not seriously consider those schools that do not and cannot have at least 300 students without any MAJOR building renovations. To my knowledge that leaves about four schools from which to choose. Kennedy - mold issue. Cordley - ADA compliance. Woodlawn - maximum capacity 264. New York - maximum capacity 206.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 7 years ago

Close them now and get Full Day Kindergarten for the rest of the district!! Oh, no wait, then we wouldn't get 'buy-in' for the consolidation and the votes for the next bond issue! Anyone that votes for this next bond issue is just ignorant. Tell the district NO! Tell them to use the buildings they've got before they spend money to build new ones! Which one of them has the accounting degree? Oh, yeah, none of them. Fiscally irresponsible.

Dave Trabert 7 years ago

Since several comments have questioned the amount of unencumbered carryover funds available, there is only one place where you can find the carryover amount in each fund, which is Not counting balances in Capital Outlay, Bond & Interest and Federal funds, the Lawrence district started this year with $28.4 million in 'all other' funds, which included $6.8 million in the Contingency Fund.

The state department of education posts fund balances for a small number of the funds at but most funds are not available there or anywhere else. We (Kansas Policy Institute) got the complete dataset from them and posted it on our site.

According to Dale Dennis at KSDE, the balance in some funds can be immediately transferred at district discression and used however they wish. With the exception of a few small funds like Gifts & Grants ($515,000) the balances in most other funds can be accessed by depositing less in the fund than is needed and spending down some of the carryover balance to make up the difference. Doing so frees up money to be used elsewhere.

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