Baldwin board asks for spending cuts to help cover slash in state funding
The Baldwin school board directed administration Monday to find cuts to approved spending to help address the Kansas Legislature’s reduction of current year K-12 education funding.
Baldwin Superintendent Paul Dorathy and district financial director Cynde Frick told the board that the Legislature reduced current K-12 funding in response to the state’s $344 million 2015 fiscal year revenue shortfall. The adjustment would cost the Baldwin district $75,000.
It could get worse, the board was told. There was a move in the Legislature to rescind the local option budget equalization payments approved last spring for the 2014-2015 school year. Should that happen, the district would lose another $100,000 in state funding written into the district’s current budget.
Dorathy and Frick proposed the district deal with the known $75,000 budget cut through the use of the district’s contingency fund and carry over money in its special education funds. Frick said unexpected cuts in current year state funding was an appropriate use of the contingency fund.
While making that recommendation, Frick shared with the board a list of cuts that could be made to non-mandated programs, both to address the current fiscal year’s cuts and those anticipated for the 2015-2016 fiscal year as the Legislature deals this session a projected $600 million revenue shortfall for next year.
Among the possible cost-cutting measurers were the so-called building funds managed by the principals of the district’s four schools and their individual library, art and activity funds; ending the school year earlier this spring; eliminating bus service for those students living within 2.5 miles of the schools they attend; curtailing activities such as the district’s 4-year-old program, the district’s Parents As Teachers program; and reductions for both teachers and support personnel.
There were other cost-saving measures the district could make, such as increasing class sizes or reducing high school graduation requirements, that would be counter to the district’s philosophy but stay within the board’s authority, Dorathy said.
“With every one of these things, they’re not necessarily the best thing for education,” the superintendent said.
Dorathy said he was recommending the district make use of some of the carry-over special education money and the contingency fund because existing contracts prevented the district from make use some of the cost-cutting options for current year adjustments, whereas, all would be on the table as the board crafts the district’s 2015-2016 budget. Cuts made this late in the school year when limited options are available could also set a precedent for next year, he said.
However, board members were uncomfortable with relying too heavily on carry-over special education funds to help cover this fiscal year’s state funding shortfall. Board member Sandy Chapman said keeping that fund healthy helped assure the district could make its big special education payment of next fiscal year, which is due in August.
Dorathy said that was a legitimate concern and the administration would come back to the board in March with recommendations about cuts that could be made to reduce the reliance this year of the contingency and special education carry over funds. Some of those, such as reductions in building fund spending, could start immediately, he said.
Dorathy warned that if the LOB rollback materialized, more cost-saving measurers would have to be implemented.
“If it grows to $175,000, we’re going to have to come back to you with cuts,” he said.
The Republican majority in the Legislature supports Gov. Sam Brownback’s call to rewrite the state school funding formula and fund schools for the 2015-2016 school year through individual block grants to districts. Dorathy said no one knows what that would mean for Baldwin and other districts. “I don’t know,” he said. “If you ask (Kansas Department of Education deputy commissioner) Dale Dennis, he can’t tell you. We need to start planning and prioritizing what and where we make cuts.”