Wichita schools begin, with no final budget in play

Wichita Public Schools (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s a relatively small problem, considering the budget of $682 million a year to educate more than 50,000 kids. But, Wichita schools have to decide what to do with an extra $28 million. That’s one issue to resolve in the 2017-18 budget, even though classes began for some kids in USD 259 this week.

“It would be nice to know what we’re doing before we got there,” says USD 259 school board president, Mike Rodee on the beginning of the new school year.

But Rodee says with changes in Topeka and teacher negotiations in progress, the budget has to be a work in progress.

“I don’t know that there’s really a level of frustration,” explains Rodee. “You fight all year with the legislators, trying to get budget money, and then they (lawmakers) have their own set of issues to work out. We’re going to have a budget here the 28th, which is a couple of weeks after school starts. And we haven’t got collective bargaining done which will affect our budget again so we’ll probably have to do something.”

Rodee says that “extra” $28 million is not really extra. He has been on the school board since 2013.

“And since then we’ve cut $97 million out of our budget. So to get $28 million back is fantasti, but it still doesn’t offset the $97 million that we’ve cut,” says Rodee.

About $8 million will automatically be used to compensate for cost increases for things like rate hikes in insurance and fuel for buses. More of that money will go to offset new costs in electric rate increases.

That still leaves roughly $20 million to be added.

“But we’re looking at, we cut programs last year. The METRO programs we cut. We weren’t happy,” explains Rodee. “Our biggest push is going to be the recruitment and retention of teachers because we need good teachers. So we’re going to put some money back into that.”

Before the budget is finalized, the public will have a chance to have a say. There is a board meeting August 28 at North High School at 6:00 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.

“We will have a budget soon,” says Rodee. “And we will get a deal with the teachers. Soon.”

Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.