Archive for Thursday, July 14, 2005

District to receive additional $638,000

July 14, 2005

With the Kansas Supreme Court's approval of legislative plans to increase public school funding, Lansing School District stands to gain an additional $637,993 from the state for the coming school year.

The court accepted the Legislature's latest pledge of an additional $148.4 million for the education budget. That money, added to previous additional appropriations of $142 million, means that Kansas schools will receive a $290 million increase in funding for the 2005-06 school year.

Lansing Superintendent Randal Bagby said some of the additional money had already been earmarked for the approved 4.4 percent salary increase for teachers and classified staff. He said the Lansing Education Association and the school board had negotiated pay increases for the teachers based on the Legislature's first funding increase.

The negotiations may not be over though, said Kevin Riemann, president-elect of LEA. The wording in the contract allows for the board or LEA to reopen negotiations should more money be appropriated to the district, he said. Riemann said he hoped to re-enter negotiations with the board before school starts Aug. 15.

Bagby said the board had expressed interest in using some of the new money to increase the district's contribution to employee health insurance.

"Health insurance is my first priority," he said.

However, Bagby said there were some strings attached to the money the district will receive. The Legislature said in the wording of the plan that the extra money could only be used "in the classroom for instruction."

"My hope is that that can also be used in the form of teacher benefits," he said.

The stipulation should be made clear at upcoming budget workshops, held by the state Department of Education, Bagby said. The budget workshops would explain the statutes surrounding the state funds. After the workshops, districts can download budgeting software programmed with the new formulas, Bagby said.

He said he was surprised the court allowed the Legislature to raise the cap on the local option budget, but he said the court made the right decision. A local option budget, which is financed directly by local property owners, now can account for 27 percent of a district's general fund, up from 25 percent.

"I think for them to have done anything differently at this point would have looked vindictive," he said.

However, Shelly Gowdy, Lansing School Board vice president, disagreed with raising the cap.

"It's putting the burden on local taxpayers that should be the Legislature's responsibility," she said.

Bagby said he hoped not to raise the Lansing's local option budget - which is now at 25 percent - but said he would have to review the Legislature's bill. Some state funding provisions, for instance, require that districts "max out" their local option budget to receive supplemental funding.

Sherri Schwanz, Lansing Middle School choir director who will begin her term as a member of Kansas National Education Assn. board of directors Friday, said she was glad the Legislature finally acted but was worried about future funding.

"My biggest fear is that they have done the funding this year but will get sidetracked on personal agendas for next year," she said.

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