Archive for Thursday, July 2, 2009

Year ends with shortfall

July 2, 2009

Topeka — Public school officials are dreading the start of the state’s fiscal year.

Kansas finished the 2009 fiscal year on Tuesday approximately $126 million short, and Gov. Mark Parkinson has scheduled a news conference Thursday to discuss reducing the deficit.

In a brief talk with reporters on Monday, Parkinson declined to say whether schools would suffer more cuts.

But kindergarten through 12th-grade spending represents about half of the state’s budget, so school officials, already hit with budget cuts earlier in the year, are sounding the alarm.

School districts have reported eliminating 3,700 teaching and nonteaching positions to save $100 million, and planned another $67.7 million in other cost-saving measures for the upcoming school year. Earlier this month in Lawrence the school board cut $355,000 from the district’s 2009-2010 budget, to bring the total reductions to more than $2.5 million.

In the last legislative session, lawmakers forced local boards to make reductions by cutting state aid to public schools by $80.4 million, or 2.4 percent.

Deeper education cuts will hurt Kansas in the long term by producing more drop-outs, fewer skilled workers and less economic growth, said Mark Tallman, a spokesman with the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The time has come to start thinking about raising more revenue, including taxes, some school officials say. But state leaders are in no mood to increase taxes during the economic slump.

In a recent online chat conducted by KTKA 49 News in Topeka, Parkinson said, “Raising taxes is not a good thing to do in a recession because it drains money from the system at a time when the system needs money flowing to keep the economy going.”

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