Lawrence school board approves budget changes for 2020-21 school year, including 2.4% employee raises

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Updated at 2:18 p.m. Wednesday

The bulk of the Lawrence school district’s budgeting process for the 2020-2021 school year is completed as the school board on Monday approved several funding changes, including a 2.4% raise for all district employees.

But the district won’t finish the entire process until later this summer. It will need to keep an eye on how the state’s revenue is affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as it could possibly lead to changes in public education funding, said Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance for the district.

“Further budget discussions will be occurring as we continue to evaluate the impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown, the state’s financial circumstance, and impact to schools for the (current fiscal year), along with any changes the governor is required to make for the next fiscal year beginning July 1,” Johnson told the Journal-World via email.

According to a budget report to the school board members — which Johnson provided to the Journal-World on Tuesday — the school district expects to receive about $1.7 million more in state funding for the new school year. The new money is mostly generated through an increase in dollars per student in the state’s education funding formula, which increased about $130 per student.

The largest portion of the new funding will support the raises for all school district employees, which is expected to cost the school district a total of about $1.96 million. The board also approved several staffing reductions and consolidations at schools and in district administration, which freed up roughly $780,000 in the overall budget, according to the report.

Other budget changes include adding several new facilities and operations positions and adding a social worker and a guidance counselor to the College and Career Academy staff. With the changes approved on Monday, almost all of the new funding has been allocated, leaving just approximately $8,000 that has not been allocated.

Despite finalizing those changes, the school board may need to consider additional changes in the future as education funding in the state is far from certain because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Last week, Gov. Laura Kelly announced the state cut its tax revenue projections over the next 15 months by $1.37 billion, which would leave the state with a $653 million budget shortfall by June 2021. To make up for the shortfall, cuts to the state budget will be needed.

Johnson told the board that the school district currently expects to receive its state funding for the 2020-2021 school year, but education may not be spared in the future.

“Historically when revenue hasn’t been sufficient, school districts tend to see cuts (of state funding),” Johnson said. “It could be the end of this year we’re fine and through the end of 2021 we’re fine, but yet the 2021-22 (school year) becomes something we weren’t anticipating.

“Those are all things we aren’t completely sure what’s going to happen, but we have to be mindful of, because we are definitely seeing a change in revenue and it’s going to have a significant impact on the state,” she added.

Johnson also told the board the school district may receive an additional $1.4 million of funding from the federal government, which would come from its coronavirus aid package that was approved in March. She said those funds could be disbursed to school districts in June.

However, the money is a one-time payment provided to the district and comes with guidelines for how it can be used. Johnson said the district would need to use it for costs associated with the current school building shutdown, such as costs for possibly extending summer learning, costs for additional sanitation measures or reimbursing costs for the district’s meal service program, among other things.

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