Lawrence school board considering budget with $4.3M of increased funding

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance for the Lawrence school district, gives an update on the 2019-2020 budget during the Lawrence school board's regular meeting on Monday, July 8, 2019.

The Lawrence school district expects to receive an additional $300,000 of funding through its local option budget authority, which is generated through local taxes.

Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance for the school district, reported to the Lawrence school board during its regular meeting on Monday that the new funding will be generated without raising the school district’s mill levy. The additional funding joins an expected increase of about $4 million from the Kansas Legislature, which increased state funding for K-12 education in the spring to end a yearslong court battle.

With the new funding, the school board is expected to consider a $105.4 million overall budget later this month, which is about $4.3 million more than last year’s $101.1 million budget, according to board documents.

Of the new funding, about $2.5 million is already allocated to certain spending, including a $1.5 million allocation to cover last year’s deficit spending, Johnson said. That leaves a little more than $1.7 million of funds not currently allocated to anything.

Johnson said the funding to cover last year’s deficit spending is needed in the new budget because it’s against the law for the school district to approve a budget in the red. The district was able to use deficit spending last year because it used reserve funds to cover the difference.

But if the school district continued to do that in 2019-2020 school year, it would likely deplete the reserve funds before all of the deficit spending is covered, resulting in an illegal budget, she said. Additionally, because the Kansas Supreme Court found the state’s education funding to be constitutional last month, the school district does not currently expect to receive significant increases of state funding in the future.

“We cannot legally not have a balanced budget,” Johnson said.

The school district administration is currently negotiating with the district’s teachers for a 2019-2020 contract. Kelly Jones, a board member serving on the negotiations committee, said the committee has discussed a teacher contract package between $1.4 million and $3 million. She asked Johnson what would need to happen if the board approved a teacher compensation package more than the $1.7 million remaining funds.

Johnson told Jones the school district would need to find cuts in other areas, such as cutting spending on classroom supplies and canceling school events, among others.

“Anything you can do to grab the dollars that’s required is what we would have to do,” she said. “You will feel that pinch because that’s the only thing we can do.”

The board will consider giving initial approval to the 2019-2020 budget during its next meeting on July 22. If approved, the full budget will be published and will be considered for final approval after a public hearing during the Aug. 12 meeting.

In other business, the board:

• Elected Melissa Johnson and Jones as board president and vice president, respectively. Johnson replaces Jessica Beeson as president, and Jones replaces Johnson as vice president.

• Approved continuing to schedule regular meetings at 6 p.m. on the second Mondays of the month, with the exception of March, and most months’ fourth Mondays.

• Approved a 5-cent increase in all school meal prices, except for reduced-price lunches and breakfasts, for the 2019-2020 school year.

Prices for elementary schools will be $2.75 for lunch and $1.75 for breakfast; for middle schools, $2.95 for lunch and $1.85 for breakfast; for high schools, $3 for lunch and $1.90 for breakfast; and for adults, $3.70 for lunch and $2.40 for breakfast. Reduced-price lunches will continue to be 40 cents and reduced-priced breakfasts will continue to be 30 cents.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Lawrence school board members Melissa Johnson, left, and Kelly Jones slap hands after the board approved making them president and vice president of the board during the board’s meeting on Monday, July 8, 2019.


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