Butler County school district superintendents speak out

The school funding bill HB 2506, recently passed and signed by Kansas Governor Brownback, is complex.  It has around a dozen items and many different topics all rolled into one.
In addition to school funding, which provides at least $129 million in aid to poor districts and satisfies the March 7 Kansas Supreme Court order to address unconstitutional gaps in funding between poor districts and wealthier ones,  it also means changes in the finance formula, removes due process for teachers, cuts some property taxes, cuts funding related to school finance, cuts funding relate to Common Core Standards, gives a tax credit for corporate scholarships to private schools - just to name a few.
For most it is hard to understand the formula.  Some simply say  that rather than actually raising education spending, the bill cuts state aid for at-risk students and low-performing students to free up the money for restoring poorer schools’ budgets. In other words, they took it from Peter to pay Paul.  As a result, the bill won’t actually improve funding at many schools.
Adequacy and Equity
For the first time since 2009, the state will fully fund programs to address inequities in financing school district local option and capital outlay budgets.  The new law also provides additional funding per pupil by allowing all districts to increase local funding on an equalized basis.  
The funding provisions in the new law will impact the next budget year, and the net effect will vary district by district as a result of the changes in the funding formula.  
We contacted each school district in Butler County to determine how everyone will be affected.
How much did the bill increase your district's funding?
“Our projections of this bill showed it would have increased this year's funding levels by just over $8,000 ($8,182).”
- Randal Chickadonz, Superintendent
USD 394 Rose Hill  
“Our district's funding did not increase.  Overall we will have a decrease of more than $200,000.”
- Greg Rasmussen, Superintendent
USD 385 Andover
“USD 402 will receive an additional $35,065 of general operating funds (+ and – within the General and LOB funds).  USD 402 will receive $129,073 in equalization to Capital Outlay.  LOB aid will provide property tax relief but not additional money to spend.”
- Dr. John Black, Superintendent USD 402 Augusta
“The funding bill did very little to help our operational funding.  In the general fund, we may see an increase equivalent to the addition of one or two students to our district (according to KSDE's calculations $6,884).  Again, according to KSDE calculations, we could also gain approximately $18,324 more dollars in Local Option Budget spending authority.  The total of these additions to operational funds is not even enough to give our teachers a step raise for the next school year.  
   One of the brighter sides of the funding bill was the return of capital outlay equalization aid.  This will help our district's capital outlay fund as we work to pay off debt incurred during the recession to maintain our facilities.  The KSDE estimate for our district was an additional $53,017 for capital improvements.”  
- Randy Rivers, Superintendent, USD 205 Bluestem
“$5,243 increase in General fund, $17309 loss in weightings,  for a total of $12066 overall REDUCTION in funding.”
 - Justin Lockwood, Superintendent, USD 492 Flinthills
“Based on projections from the Kansas State Department of Education our General Fund spending authority will increase $12,098.   KSDE also projects our Local Option Budget authority to increase by $25.502.  The total increase in spending authority for operating expenses will be $37,600 if our Board approves the full LOB authority of 30%.  
The legislation will also reinstate state aid for our Capital Outlay Fund in the amount of $13,096 to be used for facilities and equipment.
The balance of the new funding will be state aid for our Local Option Budget which will offset local property taxes but not increase district spending authority.  KSDE estimates this amount to be $183,875.”
- Norm Wilks, Director of Fiscal & Support Services with USD 490 El Dorado
“According to our calculations the bill will increase our general fund by $10,585 and will decrease our local option budget by $10,007 leaving us with an increase of $578 dollars of new money to be used for educational purposes next year.”
- James Regier, Superintendent
USD 206 Remington

“General Fund – (HB 2506) has the following impact on our general fund.
·  Increases the base state aid per pupil by $14 ($3838 to $3852) This amount is projected to be $15,671
· Eliminates Non-proficient at-risk weighting a projected loss to the general fund of $17,719
·  With the increase of $15,671 and the loss of $17,719 The Douglass district is projected to lose $2,048 Budget Authority from the General fund.
Supplemental General Fund (Local Option Budget- LOB) - The Douglass School District is at the statutory max of 30% and since the districts assessed evaluation is very low the state is required to provide state aid.  The legislature has not been fully funding the state aid for the past many years.  The proration was down to 78% and this has put the burden on the local mill rates...
Authorizes school districts to increase LOB percentage over 30% up to 33% if approved by patrons Utilizing mail ballot election. Those districts that have already had an election to increase LOB percentage to 31 may increase the LOB to 33% by action of the board of education for the 14-15 school year.  An election will be required to continue the 33% for the 15-16 school year.  So in our case we would have to have two subsequent mail ballot elections two years in a row...
As it stands now the Douglass district will lose $16,017 because of the elimination of virtual weighting for calculating the (LOB).
Capital Outlay – (HB 2506) Restores state aid to the capital outlay fund.
· The district would receive an additional $53,812 in state aid to support capital outlay expenditures.”
- Rob Reynolds, Superintendent
USD 396 Douglass
“The good news is that we did not lose nearly $80,000 in Transportation funding or $1.2 million in New Facilities funding that was threatened early on in the process. The bad news is that our funding will be flat. The net effect on our General Fund, based on our current enrollment numbers, would mean an increase of $3610. We gain a little on the $14 per pupil increase but lose it in Non-Proficient weighting.”
- Jim Johnson, Superintendent
Circle USD 375
How will this affect your budget going forward?
“$8,000 is 2/3 of one tenth of one percent of our total budget.  It will not have much affect on our budgeting at all.  We will have to remain creative to make sure that we maximize the use of all funding sources available to the district.”
- Randal Chickadonz, Superintendent
USD 384 Rose Hill Schools
“Because we have experienced decreases for the last several years, our local budgets will be even tighter, and services will ultimately be affected.  We won't be able to offer as much to our students. The bill passed by the Legislature placed the burden back on the local taxpayers so to avoid the decrease to our district's budget, it would be necessary to raise local taxes.”
- Greg Rasmussen, Superintendent
USD 385 Andover
“Administration and the BOE are reviewing and planning for $300,000 of reductions and savings in order to have a balanced budget in 2014-15.”
- Dr. John Black, Superintendent
USD 402 Augusta
“We are running low in our contingency reserve and will have to cut two positions in our career and tech ed programs at Bluestem high school for 2014-15.  I have been working in Kansas schools for over 30 years and can definitively say that the legislative support of schools and students in our state is at the lowest point I have seen it in that time.  The kids in our schools today are being seriously shortchanged!”
- Randy Rivers, Superintendent
USD 205 Bluestem
“It is a loss of funding. There is between a four and five mill reduction in local taxes due to the funding gained from the Supreme Court ruling.
 Taxes will likely be decreased as is the overall budget.”
- Justin Lockwood, Superintendent
USD 492 Flinthills
“Going forward our budget will be flat or reduced based on student enrollment numbers for 2014-15.   Any staff salary increases and increased costs for goods, supplies and services must be funded with current budget authority or contingency reserve funds.  We will continue to search for expenses and positions that may be reduced or eliminated.”
- Norm Wilks, Director of Fiscal & Support Services with USD 490 El Dorado
“Increasing costs such as fuel, electricity, property insurance, health insurance, paper, etc. will quickly erode the additional dollars received from this most recent funding bill. An increase of $1,000 simply will not go very far given the rising cost of living that we all face. Ultimately we will likely have to reduce our expenditures in order to pay for those items that are essential to schooling such as fuel, electricity, insurance etc.”
-  James Regier, Superintendent
USD 206 Remington
“As we move forward we are still in a position that we will not be receiving any increased budget authority in our General Fund and Local Option Budget.  There will be no new money for district expenses with the exception of possible  flexibility with Capital Outlay.  We are analyzing the possibility of moving some general fund expenditures to capital outlay, however, that is a double edged sword because we still have capital improvement needs, facility and transportation needs, as well as technology updates that are needed.  We are thankful that the legislature is going to equalize the state aid in both LOB and Capital Outlay and we will be able to hopefully give some property tax relief.  But as you can see to pay for the state aid increases money has been taken from other parts of the school finance formula.”
- Rob Reynolds, Superintendent
USD 396 Douglass
“We are unable to increase our LOB because of the timing of the law. We would see about $120,000 reduction in property tax.”
- Jim Johnson, Superintendent
USD 375 Circle

The Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) attorneys and policy experts are continuing to analyze policy changes and developing recommendations for school boards.  Currently, KASB urges caution in making any changes to  hiring or termination practices or even to negotiated agreements.