Archive for Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kansas schools facing $50 million budget shortfall

Further cuts could be required if federal money is not replaced

November 9, 2010

— Education officials on Tuesday said more budget cuts are possible this school year because of the state’s continued fiscal problems, and even deeper cuts could follow that because of the loss of federal stimulus dollars.

“School district leaders have been presented with impossible choices,” said John Heim, executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards. “They have had to cut staff while saving for an uncertain future.”

The immediate problem is a $50 million shortfall in the current school budget brought on by lower statewide property tax valuations, an increase in students receiving free lunch and a larger student population, the KASB reported.

Unless the 2011 Legislature makes up the difference that could cause a $75 drop in the base state aid per student, which now stands at $4,012 per student.

But bigger cuts could be on the way because schools currently are receiving $200 million in federal stimulus funds which expire this school year.

If those funds aren’t replace with state funds, then schools will face an additional cut of $300 per student, which would mean reductions in education employees.

The Kansas Department of Education reported that last year, school districts reduced certified personnel, including teachers, by 816 positions, or 2 percent; and non-certified staff by 844 positions, or 3 percent.

Gov.-elect Sam Brownback has vowed to institute a freeze on the total of state spending when he takes office in January.

Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said, “We are very concerned about that. If the governor-elect wants to freeze state general revenue funds ... that doesn’t include money to replace the stimulus dollars.”

The state’s historic drop in tax revenue over the past two years has already produced several rounds of school funding cuts. A coalition of school districts last week filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging the Legislature was violating the Kansas Constitution by making cuts of more than $300 million to schools.

Comments

ksrush 4 years, 1 month ago

Ok we've all beaten this horse to death many times over. but here is an observation or two. Literally there is nothing of significance left to cut anywhere in the budget and the outlook from the state is now worse. Look at what has been done away with just over the last couple years throughout the entire district not just K - 5. Our kids deserve the best education we can give them K - 12.

Unfortunately the reality staring everyone in the face is our school district like numerous others around the state are in survival mode. The school board is in charge of making a finacial decision, the numbers and financial forcast speak louder then whatever will be said at the meeting on the 11th . Yes this may sound cold but facts are facts and numbers are numbers. The documentation of the state finances is pretty clear and should give everyone a pretty good idea of what lies ahead.

Most people I know regardless of which side of the consolidation debate they are on live within their means. It's a financial decision

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Chicramblings 4 years, 1 month ago

Ksrush, I couldn't agree with the heart of your comment - the school board needs to make the best financial decision for the entire district. Being an accountant, numbers always speak louder than words and there are two points that taxpayers need to understand. Closing two elementary schools will offer USD 348 short-term savings, but will result in additional expenditures about 3 to 4 years from now that will equal the total amount saved. So, it is a trade-off.

Second, USD 348 needs to not spend the savings - like a full time Athletic Director, or (sorry teachers) maybe even raises need to be on hold for another year. If you take money saving measures on one end, only to put them back in the budget as increases to existing line items or new line items that are recurring, that is a problem. In fact with all the uncertainty, we will not be in a better position if we spend these savings. Save them to buffer against upcoming choices.

Finally, I will disagree with the fact that there is "nothing of significance left to cut anywhere in the budget". One of the board members presented an alternative list on Monday night of savings and some of them seem easier than closing two schools. Items included reducing administration at the elementary level. This is easily done as the administrator shared between VES and MSES is "retired". Let the guy retire and pocket the $67,000. Stop bussing within 2.5 miles of schools - again no brainer on this one. I can't remember the rest of the items on her list, but they seemed to be "doable" items. And the great thing about her list , the items appear to have very little educational impact and they can be easily replaced or put back in future years if so needed.

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ksrush 4 years, 1 month ago

I guess thats when we agree to disagree. Keeping 10% of the school district in 2 different schools K - 5 at the expense of the other 90% of the district K - 12 . The numbers dont jive

Item 1 - Did you read the aricle at all ? I give "the taxpayers" a great deal of credit for understanding a bottom line versus emotion, "the taxpayers need to understand" - they do. Short term savings for only 3 - 4 years ? I'm curious as to what other specific additional expenditures will be that eat up the money saved from consolidation. I also saw nothing engraved in stone that says the schools cant be reopened at a later date when the economy gets better.

Item 2 - Really, do you get raises ? Most of the teachers I know work more than a 40hr week and you want to deny them what they are due ? You can break that news to them. You want to buffer against upcoming choices like what - bad and worse? No full time Athletic director you mean at VES or Marion Springs ? Dont you think it's bad enough we have highly degreed people not only doing their jobs but they are also part time custodians. Does that sound like a school district that is by any stretch of the imagination doing well ?

Item 3 - Reducing administration at the elementary level, again for which school ? or all of them. Sorry kids you all lose - again. One of the board members alternative savings list, any specifics on estimated savings versus what we are now looking at for additional funding losses ? But I was glad to hear the district is doing so well that we can afford to let the retiring administrator " pocket $ 67,000 " of our tax dollars. And you are really an accountant ?

Fact and numbers over emotion. It's a financial decision

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Chicramblings 4 years, 1 month ago

You bet I read the article. I think the taxpayers understand the $10 dollar headlines that sell newspapers like "Consolidate schools to save $400,000" without digging into the details or viewing things from a longer term perspective. Sure, the schools can be reopened at a later date, but have you reviewed history in the neighboring communities or anywhere about that happening? It doesn't happen. As to specific expenditures for the savings, at the September Board Meeting, an expenditure "wish list" was discussed. Was it just poor timing to discuss such expenditures at the same time district patrons are also being told "we need to save money, consolidate schools"? Hmm, could be bad timing, then maybe not when the school administrators were asked for the information. And thanks for the sarcasm, but the full time Athletic Director was on the high school's wish list as the current one was cut to part time. Great way to spend educational funds?

As to raises, check your facts. How many in corporate or public ventures have gotten raises in the past three years? Most are going through the same pain - working more, getting paid less as cost of living degrades a base salary that is stagnating. The previous scenario is for those people still having jobs - many more that were laid off are still unemployed. Also, chat with some of the teachers. Most of them would say, yes they want a raise, but more importantly they are happy they have a job...I am not saying that they don't deserve it, but hard times require hard choices.

To your point about my "item 3", the shared administrator is between MSES and VES. The kids are going to lose it anyway under the school consolidation, so what's your point? Would you still say "sorry kids you lose" to them for having one less administrator under the school consolidation? The decision to "rehire" retired individuals, is the Board's. If you have issues with it, take it up with them. My point is simply - are we considering all alternatives that may be available. According to this Board Member's statement her list came to the same amount of savings as the school consolidation.

I am supportive of doing what it takes, including closing schools. What I object to as a taxpayer is the lack of information presented by the district of exactly what school consolidation will cost now and in the future. The Superintendent even admitted this morning that all the financial information isn't in for the decision. Do you really know that it will save $400,000 a year? Probably not.

I am frustrated by the "mixed signals" being sent by the District - "close schools to save money" but here is a wish list of ways to spend money. Or let's abandon the vision the district formed and used to pass a $25 million bond. Doesn't any of that make you question the financial facts backing up all these decisions?

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ksrush 4 years, 1 month ago

Here's the problem I have with your reasoning, the alternatives are band aid on an open wound that just gets worse. ( please see the other 3 articles pertaining to the district and finances ) The alternatives are not long term Are you aware Baldwin is now the highest taxed , highest levied city in Douglas County - should we raise taxes yet again only to be in this position next year ? Please tell me why financially 2 schools with 10% of the district population K - 5 are going to benefit the school district as a whole K-12 long term. Key word FINANCIALLY.

Its's a financial decision - not emotional

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Chicramblings 4 years, 1 month ago

Ksrush, I have read the other three articles on the district and finances, including the two where the district would like to give away buildings to BCRC or give away right away to city... does that make sense? I am aware that Baldwin is the highest in mill levy. And do you think the consolidation of schools is going to reduce it? We are stuck with that designation until property valuations or growth moves it. Additionally, do you know what moved us to this highest position? The bond that as Mr. Dorathy pointed out, the "taxpayers" passed.

Finally, you and I are coming at this from two different financial perspectives. I am just looking at the overall financial decision in the short, mid and long term of consolidating schools. Specifically, if in 3-5 years the district will really save any money or are we just setting ourselves up to definitely raise taxes by having to expand the IC and PC. Are there other alternatives or cuts that can be made, as mentioned previously, to get to the same place that won't have a long-term cost? I understand your view is more based on the split of funds and who is getting more of the pie which is a view I can understand as well. Neither is "wrong" just two different lenses to the same issue. However, whatever way the district decides to save money, it truly does need to be saved and not reallocated. A spending of any "savings" will ensure that our taxes will go up next year.

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ksrush 4 years, 1 month ago

I never thought I would agree with you on anything however your first paragraph has some very good points. 1 numerous people were dumb enough to open up their pocket book for the bond - has government ever shown responibility with finances ? 2 Giving away the old PC. - kind of reaffirms number 1. Growth moving into Baldwin is a longshot at best given our current leadership. Issues like utilites, taxes, anti business ( unless you are a " developer" ) and basic common sense issues. They could care less as shown by a complete lack of motivation to do anything to better the city. Unfortunately Baldwin suffers from " pretty girl syndrome ( no offense ) " fun to look at but not so nice once you get to know it.

The rest is where we agree to disagree.

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