Lawrence school board looks to make final 2018-2019 priority funding decisions

photo by: Journal-World Graphic

Lawrence USD 497 school board

Now that there is certainty regarding how much money the district will receive for the coming school year, the Lawrence school board on Monday will look to make final funding priorities for the 2018-2019 school year.

The board decided in May to hire three new full-time special education teachers and two middle school behavioral health interventionists at the cost of $212,000 for 2018-2019, but passed on other spending decisions because the Kansas Supreme Court had not yet ruled on the five-year $522 million school funding bill the Legislature passed this spring. The court ruled June 25 that the plan didn’t meet the state constitutional requirement of adequately funding education, but said the shortfall could be addressed in the 2019 legislative session.

With the court’s ruling, the district now knows it will get about $4.25 million in new money for the 2018-2019 school year, but most of that money has already been allocated. The board had committed to using $3.7 million of that new money on such items as salary adjustments and commitments to hire teachers to manage classroom sizes. Accounting for another $1.4 million of that already committed spending is the board’s direction to cut by half the $2.8 million spent in 2017-2018 from the district cash reserves for ongoing expenses.

Kathy Johnson, district executive director of finances, has presented other options and positions the board could fund, which include a $25,000 a year safety and security consultant, a $64,000 a year equity facilitator and a $61,000 a year speech pathologist.

In a memo to the board, Johnson writes that final spending decisions need to be made before the board considers its 2018-2019 budget. There will be no request to approve a 2018-2019 budget for publication at the meeting because the state has not yet provided the district the needed budget forms, she writes.

The board will have a 6 p.m. executive session on a topic identified only as “negotiations” on its agenda. The regular meeting will start at 7 p.m. Monday at the District Educational Support and Distribution Center, 110 McDonald Drive.


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