Archive for Wednesday, August 21, 2002

State reduces education funding

August 21, 2002

Budget cuts at the state level will decrease education funding in the Basehor-Linwood School District by approximately $60,000, school district officials said this week.

Last week, Kansas Gov. Bill Graves announced he was trimming the state budget by approximately $41 million because of revenue shortfalls.

Despite a $285 million tax increase on cigarettes and gasoline implemented in July, state revenues continue to fall below estimates.

The budget cuts will reduce education funding in the 303 Kansas school districts by .75 percent, approximately $27 per student.

The decrease means the school district will now receive $3,867 per student, instead of the $3,890 they were expecting before the cuts were announced.

The governor's reduction wipes out a $20 per pupil increase the Kansas Legislature approved earlier this year.

"We actually ended up with a net loss of $7 (per student)," said Cal Cormack, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent.

Cormack said the budget cuts wouldn't have much effect on the school district because the district was prepared for the reduction.

There will be no program cuts made as result of the funding loss, he said.

The budget cuts also did not impact the school district's 2002 to 2003 budget. School Board members approved the budget Tuesday, Aug. 20. (See related story, page 6A)

The funding cuts announced last week came as no surprise to school officials.

Education funding represents nearly half the state's overall budget, so a funding cut was expected when it became clear state revenues weren't meeting earlier projections.

"Most schools have been aware this could happen for some time," said Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards. "It didn't come as a shock and in many ways (the cuts) weren't as severe as many thought."

Cormack informed School Board members two weeks ago that a funding cut could happen, but that the district could withstand the shortfall because of proper budgeting and fund transfers.

Most school districts, however, are not so fortunate and the loss of funding could mean program cuts, Tallman said.

Those school districts could eliminate after-school programs, classified staff, athletics or other extracurricular activities not tied directly to education.

"You've already hired a math teacher so you can't cut their position, but you can cut a math tutoring program or you can hold off on adding new textbooks," Tallman said. "We're most likely to see reductions in those areas."

The cuts could run even deeper.

In November, the governor is scheduled to meet with economists and financial advisors and could make a decision to further reduce state spending, Tallman said.

"He'll wait and see what the revenue situation is in November," Tallman said. "He could choose to act then if the numbers warrant it, or he could wait for the new governor or the Legislature to handle it."

School officials said the next round of cuts could be as much as $80 per student.

For the Basehor-Linwood School District, that means losing an additional $250,000.

The Kansas Legislature is scheduled to begin sessions in January.

Cormack said the school district would be careful with spending until it's confident state officials have taken care of the economic dilemma.

"I think there will be at least one more cut, perhaps at the beginning of the year," Cormack said. "But we feel like we're prepared to deal with the fiscal crisis the state is in."

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