Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2002

School districts facing possible funding difficulties

January 9, 2002

Predictions of tax revenue shortfalls at the state level next year have many school districts worried about the future of public education.

Basehor-Linwood school district officials say it's a situation that could have drastic effects on the quality of local education and should be a concern to the entire community.

The Basehor-Linwood School Board hopes to shed light on the situation by having a community informational meeting on school financing.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Basehor-Linwood High School auditorium.

State Board of Education representative Mark Tallman will give a presentation on the current state of school financing at the legislative level and its effects locally.

"The primary purpose (for the meeting) is to provide information," said Cal Cormack, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent. "It is obvious to anyone looking at the state Legislature that school financing is a major problem."

The state Legislature is scheduled to meet next week in Topeka and school financing is expected to be a major topic of debate, Cormack said.

Cormack said school financing is in such trouble that the Legislature could choose to cut back on the amount of funds school districts receive for each student.

During the past three years, the state of Kansas has raised the amount of money paid per pupil by approximately $150 total.

The state Legislature is considering taking away that increase because of budget constraints.

Budget shortfalls can be traced to two sources: an economic recession and a reduction in state taxes, Cormack said.

Should the Legislature eliminate the latest increases, the Basehor-Linwood School District could lose as much as $370,000 in student funding school officials said.

This could cause the school district to delay future programs.

"What I would have to do is say to administrators, 'Not more, less,'" Cormack said. "We would immediately put a freeze on hiring new personnel and a hold on (course) revisions."

The reduction in state financing would also reduce the amount of revenue the school district could receive through its Local Option Budget, Cormack said.

In March, the School Board approved increasing the LOB to 25 percent, the highest percentage the school district can levy.

The school district could also face the possibility of administrators leaving for other school districts.

In the last year, the Basehor-Linwood School Board did not give district administrators raises because of a need to provide health insurance to district teachers.

With the loss of state revenue, the school district would not be able to give pay raises, causing administrators to start looking at other districts for employment.

"Absolutely, that's what happens," Cormack said. "That's what happened before."

The potential loss would hinder the school district's continuing efforts to improve local education, school district officials said.

"We're trying to be proactive and not just try to keep pace but improve," he said. "We want to attract the best teachers and the best administrators and this could affect us.

"One of the best things this community has in terms of potential growth is the school district."

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