Archive for Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Funding increase a relief

May 22, 2002

A collective sigh of relief came not only from lawmakers, but also from Basehor-Linwood School District administrators following the end of a trying Kansas legislative session last week.

"Needless to say, we're all very relieved it's finally over," said Cal Cormack, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent.

The Legislature wrapped up hearings Friday morning by approving a budget that would increase taxes on, among other things, cigarettes and gasoline, but also increase per pupil education funding.

In previous legislative hearings, several scenarios were proposed to balance a budget that faced shortfalls upward of $700 million, including reducing education funding.

However, legislators were able to find the necessary revenue to raise school funding and increased the per pupil allocation rate from $3,870 per student to $3,890 for the next school year.

For the Basehor-Linwood School District, the increase will account for approximately $40,000 more from the previous year.

However, the funding increase isn't enough to keep up with rising costs in other areas, Cormack said.

A raise in employee health insurance rates and transportation and utility costs still has the school district looking to trim around $250,000 from the budget.

Cormack said slimming the budget would not include eliminating teaching positions.

"We will not be cutting any positions given the funding that has occurred," he said.

Instead, two technology positions, where employees resigned, will not be replaced. And cuts in class materials and new textbook adoptions could also occur, Cormack said.

The school district will also look at slight raises in school lunch programs and textbook rentals, he said.

Although there will be some cuts in the school district, Cormack said none would be as severe as what administrators detailed in a letter to district patrons in April.

In the April letter, the school district feared approximately $900,000 would need to be cut from the budget. Now, many of those cuts are unnecessary, Cormack said.

While the results of the legislative hearings have left Basehor-Linwood relatively unscathed, at least one area school district is feeling the pressures of declining funding.

The Bonner Springs-Edwardsville School District recently made about $450,000 in cuts, including the elimination of eight teaching positions, several secretarial positions and a Parents as Teachers program.

More cuts could be approved in the future, school officials said.

And while the Basehor-Linwood School District may be more fortunate than some districts, officials remain skeptical about future school funding.

"I think it's fair to say there is still some apprehension," Cormack said.

"Some are saying the situation appears to be equally bleak next year," he added. "We might find it as difficult next year as this year."

In a column in this week's Sentinel, State Rep. Ray Cox, who represents Basehor and Bonner Springs, wrote the state's funding situation could be worse next year if the economy does not get better.

By law, schools must have their budgets finalized and submitted to the state in August. The Basehor-Linwood School District is now preparing to finalize its budget for next year.

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