Superintendent of Schools:
620.845.2585 ext 2005
Notes from the Office of the Superintendent:
School Budget Update
Alan Jamison, Superintendent
Each day it seems you can’t turn on the television news or read the newspaper without seeing something about a school in Kansas having some sort of money problem; either needing money just to finish the school year or that they are finishing the year early in order to save money. Therefore, I wanted to give the community an idea of how school funding has unfolded this school year and the challenges our school board is facing as we near the end of the year.
In July of 2014 the USD 360 Board of Education met and passed forward a preliminary 2014-15 school budget that was published for final approval in August. Our school and state budget year runs from July 1 to June 30. The budget that is made in the summer is an estimate of how many students will be enrolled in school and the associated weightings that go along with each of those students. Some of those weightings are for students enrolled in vocationally funded classes, students who live more than 2.5 miles away from the school buildings, students considered at-risk, as well as several other categories that our students fall into. The district’s total weighted enrollment is then multiplied by the $3,852 base state aid per pupil that the governor recommended last year in order to compute our general fund budget. Other budget funds where the district gets state aid includes bond and interest, supplemental general (also known as local option budget – LOB), and capital outlay. Due to a court ruling, the legislature agreed to pay their share of state aid last year. In previous years there was no state aid for capital outlay and a pro-rated amount of state aid for supplemental general (LOB) state aid. Going into an election year, many legislative candidates stated many times that school districts would be funded as promised.
However, immediately following the election and in the wake of revenue estimates that showed the state was not taking in as much money as projected, school districts were told there would be allotments (cuts to the BSAPP figure of $3,852) to their general fund. The governor also recommended that the state aid for capital outlay and supplemental general (LOB) funds be reduced to come up with money needed to avoid a deficit at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2015. In his State of the State address, the governor also recommended block grants for the next two years because the legislature wanted a static funding system instead of the dynamic funding system that has be in use since 1992. Since 1992 there have been a few modifications to address and adjust some of the weightings. So far in this legislative session, the legislature passed the recommended block grants with the allotments restored to the base state aid for school districts. With the approval of the block grants there were cuts included to state aid in capital outlay and supplemental general funding to school districts.
One area where additional funding claims are made for school districts is through KPERS, which is the retirement system for state employees. Throughout the previous 20 years the KPERS system had been underfunded by the legislature and the governor did make an attempt to help improve the status of KPERS a few years ago, but this is not money that schools can use to pay teachers, or for classrooms supplies. It is money that goes in and out of the district to help pay for retirement benefits. This money is showing up on many financial printouts of school budgets as an increasing flow of money to schools, but in reality is money that cannot be used anywhere in the school districts.
Where are we moving forward? Our school district has been growing in enrollment for the past four years. Under the old formula, we would have had the opportunity to receive more funding as our enrollment went up. Likewise, if our school’s enrollment would have gone down, then we would have received less funding. The block grants freeze us for the next two years. The decrease in equalization of state aid for this year and the next two years leaves us with less money than we expected when we prepared our budget in July. We are now in the process of reviewing all of our expenses and delaying purchases as we see how the budget is going to play out in the final three months of the year. What we do know is that we are losing state aid in supplemental general and capital outlay aid to the tune of $46,592 this year. Even if the state can hold steady on revenue, we still face a decrease of funding of $39,050 next year and another net loss of $23,239 in 2016-17. Early estimates show that the total valuation of property in the state of Kansas will be over $17 million less than this year.
The school district expenses are increasing every year. The cost of property insurance, school supplies, utility costs, and salaries are going up. Just to allow our teachers to move on the salary schedule without any increases being added to the schedule will cost the district over $10,000. This does not include raises for classified staff nor should health insurance premiums go up. This is a trying time for our teachers and classified staff, and I admire them for their dedication and hard work.
The Consensus Revenue Estimates for the rest of this fiscal year and for the upcoming fiscal year came out last week. Estimates show the state will fall short another $87 million for the remainder of this year and a $188 million shortfall for the upcoming year. The possibility of more cuts for this year and next year will be facing our board of education at the next meeting. We will have to figure out how much money we have to work with and if the money promised to us under the block grants will still be available. We may very well see those dollar amounts go down, so it is very hard to make a budget with a continuous moving target. One common occurrence each year is that we do not receive our June payments to close the year out until July. It can be compared to writing a check for your monthly rent and then asking the landlord not to cash it until the middle of the next month so until you deposit some money in your account. This year we expect even a longer than normal wait for this final check due to us in June because of the lower revenue estimates.
The legislature is set to go back in session on April 29th. I venture to guess that by then neither of our state legislators will have made any serious attempts to come to Caldwell and visit with our citizens about any topics relating to our school and/or the Kansas budget. This is a community and school with a lot of history and pride and I am fearful that there will be forced changes due to the lack of a revenue stream. If the funding of public education and the survival of your school district is important to you, I encourage you to call or write Senator Steve Abrams or Representative Kasha Kelley and express your concerns. Both of these legislators are up for election in 2016. Caldwell has enough registered voters to make a difference in the outcome of the next election.
In closing I would like everyone to know that we have a very dedicated and professional teaching staff in this district. I know they are frustrated by what they hear on television, or read every day in newspapers or see on social media. These men and women are committed to becoming better teachers and to get the best out of all their students each and every day. The staff works cooperatively every day in order to provide better learning experiences for Caldwell students. As we approach Teacher Appreciation Week, (May 4-8) please take the time to say “thank you” to the teachers of USD 360. They are doing remarkable work in this turbulent time in education.
I offer my personal thanks to the whole staff of USD 360 Caldwell Schools. You truly are an exemplary group of educators and support staff. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with each of you.