Before approving 2020 budget, school district will have to find $500K in cuts to fund teacher contract

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

Before the Lawrence school board considers giving final approval to its 2020 budget this week, it will need to make half a million dollars in cuts to cover its new teacher contract, officials told the Journal-World.

Last week, the Lawrence Education Association and the school district’s administrators announced a tentative agreement to increase teacher compensation by a total of $1.9 million. The agreement includes a raise of $218 to the base salary for teachers, a step up on the teacher pay scale for those who qualify and a continuation of teachers’ current health insurance plans, among other incentives.

But it will also cost $500,000 more than what the district had left for raises in its 2020 budget.

In July, the board gave initial approval to a budget proposal with an expected expenditure of $105.4 million, which is $4.3 million more than last year’s $101.1 million budget.

That increase in spending will be covered mostly by extra funding from the state. The school funding plan that the Kansas Legislature passed in its last session will result in a roughly $4 million increase for the district this year. The district is also expected to collect about $300,000 more in property taxes.

Of the new money, the district set aside roughly $2.5 million for priorities such as covering last year’s deficit spending and left the remaining $1.7 million unallocated, hoping to use it to pay for teacher salaries. But Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance, told the board during its July 22 meeting that the deficit spending would cost the district $300,000 more than expected. That left only $1.4 million that could be used for raises.

Even though the proposed budget would decrease the district’s mill levy by 0.784, Johnson said the district is prevented from increasing its mill levy to come up with the extra $500,000 it needs. The state’s funding formula puts a cap on how much property tax a district can collect, and this year’s cap was lower than last year’s, so the district was legally obligated to lower its mill levy, she said.

Johnson didn’t have any information on what might be cut to fund the raises for teachers.

Under the proposed budget, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay roughly $18 less in property taxes to the school district next year.

In other business:

• The board will consider approving compensation increases for classified and administrative staff.

According to board documents, the school district is offering an increase in compensation for both at the same 2.4% rate as the teacher contract. If approved, the total cost for classified staff compensation would increase by $868,000, and the cost of administrative staff compensation would increase by $191,000.

• The board will consider spending $54,000 to remove asbestos from Lawrence High School. The asbestos is one of the causes of the recently announced six-day delay to the start of the school year for high school students.

The school district is currently undergoing construction improvements at both high schools. Julie Boyle, a spokeswoman for the school district, told the Journal-World that crews found asbestos in Lawrence High School through a pre-construction survey prior to the construction project. School board documents show that a consultant was hired for the survey in January 2018 and in March of this year, the district approved a $112,554 bid to have a company remove materials containing asbestos at the school.

However, when construction began this summer, additional asbestos was discovered in the concrete block of a wall that was being removed from Lawrence High School, Boyle said.

If the board approves, the school district will hire B&R Insulation Inc. to remove the newly found asbestos.

The board will begin its public hearing on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. Complete agenda materials are available via

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