Archive for Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Schools bracing for possible future cuts

June 3, 2015, 9:28 p.m. Updated June 3, 2015, 10:56 p.m.

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— Superintendents in the Lawrence and Baldwin City school districts say they have already made adjustments in their budgets to account for cuts in their operating funds that resulted from the new block grant funding formula that went into effect earlier this year. But now, they're bracing for the possibility of more cuts.

"We have put ourselves in a position to deal with additional cuts," said Baldwin City Superintendent Paul Dorathy. "With the way things are going in Topeka, anything could happen."

When the block grant funding bill was passed in April, it took effect immediately, and most districts saw cuts in state aid for their general operations and maintenance budgets.

"We made those cuts back in April, for the initial block grant," Dorathy said. "We were prepared for that. We made adjustments in our fees, and a couple of personnel positions."

In Lawrence, the process took a little longer. Initially, Superintendent Rick Doll said, the district pared back on purchasing and dipped into reserve funds to absorb the loss of about $2 million in state aid in the current school year.

Going forward, though, Doll said the district is now looking at either raising local property taxes to make up for some of the cuts in state aid, or cutting about $1.2 million in spending by reducing staff and other expenses.

But so far, he said, the Lawrence district has not sent nonrenewal notices to teachers for budget reasons.

"We were able to make cuts that are outlined in that $1.2 million by not filling positions as a result of resignations and retirements," he said.

However, given the ongoing stalemate over taxes and spending in the Legislature, Dorathy said the Baldwin City district is bracing for the possibility of more cuts.

"We've been sitting here all along saying, 'I wonder if they’re going to fill the hole, or make cuts to fill the hole,'" he said.

Although lawmakers have approved funding for public schools for the next two years, they haven't yet passed a budget for the rest of state government, mainly because of a stalemate over how to raise the $400 million in additional revenues needed to fund it.

Meanwhile, alternative plans have been floated calling for across-the-board cuts of up to 6 percent if lawmakers cannot agree on a tax plan.

Doll said the possibility of future cuts is weighing on the minds of Lawrence school officials as well.

"Yeah, there's always that gamble, or that risk," he said. "I think that's why it's imperative for us to keep at least some dollars in reserve if that happens.

Dorathy said the Baldwin City district has also been dipping into reserve funds, but he is concerned about spending down any more of those reserves.

"We have some contingency money," he said. "The problem is, contingency money is a savings account for one-time emergencies. If they come in and cut us like they’re talking, it isn’t a rainy day fix. It’s been raining since 2008 (when the state first began cutting education budgets during the Great Recession). They haven’t replaced anything since that time."

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP lawmakers who supported the block grant bill argue that overall funding will actually increase over the next two years.

But Dorathy and Doll both said the vast majority of that is to pay for increased contributions into the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Fund.

"That’s a good thing. I’m glad they’re fixing KPERS," Dorathy said. "At the same time, that doesn’t help our classrooms in any way shape or form. It does provide a benefit for our staff when they retire, but it doesn’t help the kids who are in our classrooms today. It's not money I get to use to pay for utilities, fuel in the buses, teacher salaries, that kind of thing."

Comments

Steve Jacob 2 years, 4 months ago

I am sure I have posted before my fears about why we approved almost $100M in school improvements when the states was going to take money away. And a 6% cut would damage the whole Kansas school system.

And it was not reported here, but the State Court confirmed a ruling that local school boards can not raise taxes more then what the state caps it. Shawnee Mission parents wanted to raise taxes because they have the richest area in the state and still have to close schools. Judge Lucero was pretty harsh, saying it's there own fault for school closings because they pay teachers too much (84% of teachers have Masters).

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 4 months ago

Wouldn't want any educated teachers. Why not do like Texas. I hear they are going to allow people to teach who only have a high school degree. They can pay them minimum wage. I'm sure that will work out really the way they want it.

Steve King 2 years, 4 months ago

It's just insane how our Leaders promote they increased funding with the block grants when the reality is the increase goes to KPERS as a pass through. They are advocating their KPERS liability to the Districts, then borrowing money to prop up the fund. With a lawsuit pending in our highest courts, they made the move to block grants. Highly unethical. They then threaten the Courts funding if a ruling doesn't go their way. That's pure coercion. Pure Blackmail. Pure Evil. They are both mad and insane. So not representing the majority. 75% of the population opposed the new unlicensed concealed and carry law. So they passed it. Because those are the 25% of the population that elected them. Because of voter apathy.

I hope they don't find a solution and shut down the state government. Albeit for just a little while. Maybe that will wake people up.

Andy Anderson 2 years, 4 months ago

Does this mean Students might be able to break the top twenty in reading, science, and math proficiencies worldwide?

Groovy!!! I'm all for it!

Steve King 2 years, 4 months ago

Let it go Andy. We know it still haunts you, but let it go. One didn't have to be in the top 20 to know to hire those that are. I do it all the time. You can too. A heads up, those aren't the only three things that make the world go around.

John Sickels 2 years, 4 months ago

But this is all lies! All those staffers being laid off in KCK...that's not really happening. Dave Trabert tells me so.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 4 months ago

I wonder where he is to defend his lord and masters.

Bob Reinsch 2 years, 4 months ago

We have to do what it takes to take care of the neediest sector of Kansas society... after all, if tax breaks for the wealthy are reversed, they might have to downgrade the caviar at the Americans for Prosperity buffet. Might even have to lay off a few congressmen.

Paul R Getto 2 years, 4 months ago

They will leave a deficit and Muscular Sam will cut schools again, rob what's left of KDOT, sweep up small change from various accounts and call it a day. When asked, he will say "The Legislature made me do it and the Constitution requires it. Shanti...

Kathleen Ammel 2 years, 4 months ago

Does anyone ever look at the numbers from the KS Dept of Ed itself? There was a $142 million increase in state aid K-12 funding! 2013-14 funding was $2.95 billion NOT including KPERS and $3.26 billion including KPERS. 2014-15 funding will be $3.09 billion NOT including KPERS and $3.4 billion including KPERS. That is an increase of $142.19 million NOT including KPERS and $144.72 including KPERS. There was an INCREASE in state aid even when KPERS money in not included!

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