Goessel USD Board of Education members met with state legislators Monday to discuss finance change proposals and how they would affect small school districts.
Sen. Jay Emler and Rep. J. Robert Brookens attended the regular monthly school board meeting, answered questions, and spoke freely with the public and school officials at the larger-than-usual meeting held in the Goessel Elementary School gymnasium.
“Our goal was to develop open lines of communication with our representatives and to let them know how we feel about proposed changes coming our way,” Superintendent John Fast said. “The meeting went very well, and I felt they listened to us and spoke honestly in answering our questions.”
Three proposals concerning school finance dominated the discussion for those in attendance. Information provided by Landon Fulmer, chief of public relations for Gov. Sam Brownback, outlined a hold-harmless provision, equalization, and block grants.
“The state is proposing to lower the mill rate from 20 to 15 mills,” Fast said. “They promised that no schools would lose money in the first year, but after that it could really hurt us.”
The hold-harmless provision, intended to keep districts with below average mill values at a level of funding certainty as they transition from one formula to the other, worried Goessel board members.
“Our concern, if our mill levy is lowered, is how equalization will affect Goessel,” Fast said. “We are poor in appraised wealth because we don’t have a lot of business or industry. We cannot collect as much tax money on the same mill levy as larger cities with more businesses can.”
Fast said equalization formulas proposed by the state are good for larger school districts in highly populated areas, but rural schools like Goessel will be unable to raise the funds needed from local businesses.
“This is a formula that really pits rural schools against urban,” Fast said. “Unfortunately, the representatives from those larger areas will all vote for this because it makes sense for them, but the rural schools will not benefit from equalization.”
Another school finance topic discussed was that of block grants. Fast said block grants provide pools of money that schools can apply for and designate toward specialty programs, such as agriculture education or classes with a medical health track.
“It all sounds good except for the fact that in order to get these grants, schools must have a grant writer and most small schools just don’t have the resources to hire for that full-time specialty position,” Fast said.
In other business:
- Board members approved a recommendation by Fast to give students and teachers an additional day off on Nov. 23 as a reward for high Standard of Excellence scores last month. The school calendar previously listed Nov. 23 as a half day.
- Fast announced that Ken Willard of the State Board of Education will attend the next board meeting on Dec. 12. He may also visit the district during the day to observe classes in action.