Archive for Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Education official: Some districts in state are running out of money

December 9, 2009

— Some school districts are having difficulty making payroll because of budget cuts and delayed payments from the state, Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said Tuesday.

He said he has not seen schools in such dire financial shape since he started working for the state 42 years ago.

“School people are about as stressed as I’ve seen them,” Dennis said.

He said the Division of Budget is working with at least 7 school districts on forwarding enough money to them to make payroll before Christmas.

“The cash flow for them is extremely crucial,” he said.

Those districts he identified were Ashland, Hugoton, Buhler, Wellington, Skyline, Hays and Haven. They will require about $2.2 million to pay employees.

More districts are in technical violation of the state’s cash-basis law because they are paying bills with monies from funds not related to those expenses, Dennis said. He didn’t identify which districts were in that situation.

The cause of the problems? The state budget crisis.

State leaders have cut school funding by $301.5 million this year. In addition to the cuts, the state has delayed several major payments to schools to prop up the sagging budget.

Here are some details:

• A $206 million payment to schools due Nov. 1 was paid in two installments — on Nov. 6 and Dec. 2.

• A $196 million payment to schools that was due Dec. 1 won’t be paid in full until Dec. 30.

• A $75 million payment from the state to schools for special education that is due Dec. 15 won’t be paid until January.

The cuts and delays have some school advocates hoping for some kind of tax increase when the Legislature starts its 2010 session on Jan. 11.

The most-often discussed proposal includes wiping away some sales tax exemptions.

But State Board of Education member Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson, said raising taxes would further hurt the economy.

“Everybody is in tough times,” he said.

Education Board member Walt Chappell, D-Wichita, said schools received tremendous increases because of the 2005 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ordered more funding. He said some of the positions created since that ruling should be cut.

But Education Board member Sally Cauble, R-Liberal, said she has heard from many people who say they will support a tax increase to help schools. She said most people she has spoken with are angry with legislators for failing to have a long-range plan on funding state government.

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