Danedri Thompson
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Kansas public schools will receive less money than they anticipated for the remainder of the fiscal year.
As a result of lower-than-expected sales tax revenue, Gov. Sam Brownback announced that future allotments from the state to school districts and universities will be $44.5 million less than anticipated. Brownback said even though allotments to schools will be lower, districts statewide are receiving $177 million more this fiscal year than last.
Jeremy McFadden, USD 231 business director, said that will translate into the Gardner Edgerton School District receiving approximately $280,000 less than expected this year. It will shift some of the funding burden from the state to local taxpayers.
Brownback noted school contingency funds when he announced he would be lowering allotment amounts to public schools.
“School districts are estimated to have approximately $381 million in reserve fund balances to help them offset the smaller than expected increase in state funding,” the Governor said in a press release.
The Gardner Edgerton School District will likely look to its reserves to make up the difference between anticipated allotments and the new reality.
USD 231’s contingency fund currently contains approximately $1.6 million, McFadden said.
Some districts may choose to be flexible with their spending for the next five months to make up the difference, he said. They won’t be able to do much with staffing. Payroll costs are fixed.
“Some districts could decide to lay off custodians or other non-certified personnel,” McFadden said. “I think our goal is to see what we can do outside of payroll to cover a potential cut in aid. We want to preserve our staffing models.”
USD 231 built a conservative budget, he explained.
“We try to give ourselves some latitude at the state level,” he said.
He wasn’t surprised to hear of the lowered allotments to school districts.
“We knew state revenues were down, and we thought this could happen,” he said. “I think we understood education was going to take a cut.”
State Sen. Molly Baumgardner represents Gardner and Edgerton in the Kansas Senate. She attended a USD 231 board meeting on Feb. 10.
She told the board that legislators were surprised by the Governor’s announcement to lower school allotments.
“I know that school districts – at least the eight in my district – have experienced a lot of consternation over the last few days,” she told board members. “I wanted to let you know that the legislators are feeling that in the Capitol as well.”
Prior to the release of a judicial opinion mandating it, legislators made a good faith effort to increase school funding by adding $129 million to school budgets, Baumgardner said.
However, when those numbers were run through the school funding formula, state officials actually dispersed approximately $200 million to schools. Legislators, she said, felt burned by their earlier votes that dispersed $60 million more than what the Governor and Senate approved.
“Everyone is trying to evaluate what is going to happen with the Governor’s proposal,” she said.
The reduced allotments aren’t scheduled to be dispersed to schools until March 7. Before then, legislators may make changes that will supersede the Governor’s proposal.
“One thing is going to be clear from this point forward: When the legislator locks in funding, it will be locked in as far as funding,” Baumgartner said. “It won’t be changed.”
The madness has to stop, she told members of the Gardner Edgerton Board of Education.
She said that since the school funding formula was put in place years ago, all groups – superintendents, legislators, teachers and taxpayers – all seem to agree that there was something wrong with the formula.
“It’s finally gotten to the point where every legislative breakfast I ever attend, it was stated that the funding formula is broken and we need to fix it, but nothing has been done,” she said.