Monday, July 11, 2011
For months, the Wichita Public School District has been looking at ways to cut nearly $28 million from next year's budget. One organization is accusing the district of not taking advantage of what they claim is an extra $45 million that's free to use.
The discrepancy stems from a bill passed by the state Senate late in the session, allowing districts to, for one year, borrow money from certain funds.
"Our goal is to present a budget that I think folks can easily say is respectfully conservative, that we're banking on past knowledge we have regarding finances," said John Allison, USD 259 Superintendent.
With local ads, the Kansas Policy Institute has tried to show the public the district could do more with its budget, including taking advantage of SB111.
"It removes surplus restrictions on 12 different funds, and allows districts to supplement base state aid by up to $232 per pupil," said Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute, President.
For Wichita, the cap is $16.4 million. That's less than eight days of operating costs for the district.
Four of the twelve funds represent 94% of the balance. The areas include at-risk students, textbooks, special education, and the contingency reserve of about $15 million. All are crucial to the district.
"That really only gave us access to 8 or 9 days of operating expenses," said Allison.
One plus from SB111, the previously cut driver's education fund of about $268,000 will now be cleared.
"There is all new revenues that come in to all those different sources in the coming year. So, you can still spend everything you have coming in, plus, if you want to pull down some of the prior year surpluses to increase that revenue," said Trabert.
They are great ideas, as long as the state makes its payments to USD 259 on time.
Allison says this past year, payments in eleven of the twelve months were anywhere from a few days to more than a month late. An additional $30 million was never given to the district.
"We have to think about 2 or 3 years. If we don't, we get in the same mess the federal government and the state are in right now," said Allison.