Budget cuts still a worry as USD 259 begins a new school year

WICHITA, Kansas – –  A new school year is set to begin Monday for some in the state.

Here in Wichita, USD 259 will see a middle and high schools open for 6th and 9th graders.

Tuesday all students in the states largest school district go back to school, but this year the district is starting off the year with new financial worries.

The district released its budget at their last board of education meeting last Monday.

It showed that USD 259 will have about $4 million less in funding this year, due to the block grant funding put in by the legislature.

School Board President Betty Arnold says there is no wiggle room at all in their budget for this year if more cuts have to be made.

“We’ve cut so close that it is frightening to think where we would cut next,” said Arnold.

Arnold says they’ve pulled $3 million from their contingency reserve, on top of the $1 million they used to close out last school year.

This has left the school district $10 million altogether in that savings account.

“Our contingency reserve, we have enough money to operate the district for a total of six days,” said Arnold.

Another issue, Arnold says she estimates a 300 to 400 student increase this year in the district, and with funding static, there won’t be any extra money from the state.

Arnold adds keeping an adequate number of teachers to fit the need is a struggle.

“Even our teachers have not seen a raise in five years,” said Arnold.

USD 259 board member Lynn Rogers says if more cuts were to come, it would be hard to cut anywhere else.

“75% of our budget is salary and so when you’re a people oriented business, cuts will start meaning people and larger class sizes,” said Rogers.

Both Rogers and Arnold also worry if the state will be late on getting payments to the district, something they say has happened before.

If that does happen, the school district would have to dip more into that ever shrinking contingency fund.

 

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