School funding battle

TOPEKA, Kansas — Lawmakers in Topeka are trying to find money. About $130 Million.

“This has been mandated by the courts, so it will have to be done,” says Kansas House Member John Carmichael. “We can take $103 Million of those dollars from the year ending fund balances. We are projected to have a surplus this year. Plus… the remaining dollars would come from what is called the capital outlay budget.”

Carmichael says there is a Senate bill designed to do that.

“But, it’s not really going anywhere,” says Carmichael.

So, what comes next? Some insist lawmakers have not been funding schools adequately for a long time.

“Well I think they (lawmakers) are looking for money everywhere they can,” says USD 259 School Board Member Lynn Rogers. “And each year they come back to us and say we have all this year-end balances.”

Rogers says some lawmakers have asked school to spend all their “reserves” that are on hand for emergencies.

“But we’ve only got enough in the bank for about two weeks,” says Rogers. “And most business models will tell you, you’ve got to have enough business cash on hand for three to six months.”

Rogers says, first things first. He would like to see lawmakers meet the latest court mandate for funding.

“I think lawmakers are finally getting down to the business at hand,” says Rogers.

Laura Kelly, a Kansas Senator from Topeka, says the state does have the money to spend, if fellow lawmakers go for the idea.

“Ending balances, yes, we could spend that,” says Kelly. “I think the Governor’s agenda has been a real problem for the budget this year.”

Kelly says lawmakers will have to come up with a solution, because there are only a couple of weeks left in the session.

“Well, the courts have been very clear,” explains Kelly. “we have to fund schools and we have to fund them more by July 1st.”

Carmichael points to a study by the Kansas State Board of Education that shows, if schools are fully funded according to court mandates, taxpayers could actually see a break.

According to the study, USD 259 could see $15 Million more in funding.

“And look at the local option budget,” says Carmichael. “Let’s give taxpayers a break on the local level.”

If schools in Kansas are fully funded according to court mandates, the board of education study shows a district like Goddard schools would be able to lower taxes on a typical house by a hundred dollars a year.

“The Goddard school district is a good example,” says Carmichael. “if we fund schools, then yes, that local option budget could come down,” saving taxpayers money on the local level.

Kelly says Kansas could be broke by the 2016 budget year, if some of the tax breaks given in 2012 and 2013 are not reversed.

“Where to find more money?” asks Kelly. “Nobody wants to pay more taxes.”

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