Superintendent, USD 410
Recently we were made aware of the Governor’s budget proposal. No doubt, our new Governor has inherited a very tough budget situation. Former Governor Parkinson said as much during his duration in office. Yet the proposed cuts in base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) were again disheartening for many Kansans especially for those in rural areas.
Simply stated, schools operate from three budgets: operational; capital outlay; bond and interest. BSAPP funds our operational budget.
The operational budget contains the “teaching and learning” expenses of our schools. These include the vast majority of employee salaries, classroom supplies, curriculum, utilities, fuel, and much of our revolving equipment costs including technology. Consequently, I believe cuts to BSAPP are the most harmful of cuts to kindergarten through grade 12 funding.
During a time when school leaders and boards of education are being criticized for not directing enough money into the classroom, the Governor’s proposed budget literally takes money out of the classroom. The other two budgets — capital outlay and bond and interest — provide for capital improvement projects including the Gordon Mohn Center, weight room, locker rooms, Joel H. Wiens Stadium, and the remodeled Midway Motors facility.
All of our capital outlay and most of bond and interest is funded by a local mill levy for the specific purpose of capital improvements, maintenance, transportation, and one-time equipment purchases (non-revolving). If local voters want new buildings and/or well-maintained facilities, these funds allow them to say, “We do.”
One proposal being considered in Topeka to replace some of this loss in BSAPP is to increase or take the cap completely off the local option budget. The critical difference between the local option budget (LOB) and the general fund budget, both of which constitute our operational fund, is the word “local.” Our LOB is mostly funded through our local property taxes with a little assistance from the state for equalization.
The general fund comes solely from BSAPP from a variety of statewide revenue sources. Presently, the cap for our LOB is 30 percent of our total general fund. If the cap is raised or taken off the LOB completely, as many legislators from wealthier urban and suburban districts desire, it may disproportionately increase property taxes on USD 410 patrons compared to others in wealthier districts.
The Governor’s proposal to cut $75 dollars from our current budget will result in $75,000 of reduced operational budget expenditures for USD 410. It does not affect capital outlay or bond and interest. Mid-year cuts to BSAPP and our operational fund have forced us into these types of scenarios in each of the past three budget cycles. It is even more harmful in 2011-12.
Reducing personnel and cuts to classroom supplies, equipment, sports, fine arts, PE, library, and counseling will likely be considered. Considering the proposed cut of 6 percent in BSAPP for 2011-12, declining enrollment, and inflation, USD 410 will need to identify around $500,000 in cuts to our operational funds.
Yong Zhao, in his book “Catching up or Leading the Way,” writes how America’s future depends on our kids receiving a world-class education that allows for creativity, critical thinking, analysis, and flexibility. Rural school systems that don’t have a nuclear power plant within their boundaries cannot win in this game of “local control” that is tied to “local funding.” Our kids, who will enter a global marketplace upon graduation, deserve better.