The school funding bill passed by the Kansas Legislature is a win for the Pratt school district, finance director Glen Davis told the Board of Education Monday night.
Required by the Kansas Supreme Court to correct inequalities to poorer districts brought about by revenue cuts in prior years, the bill adds $129 million in school funding.
USD 382 stands to gain from state funding for its capital outlay and local option budgets, in amounts of $55,000 and $56,000, respectively, Davis said.
The bill would add $14 to the base budget, giving USD 382 an additional $23,000 if enrollment were steady.
Local taxpayers would realize $185,000 in property tax relief, at the rate of a little more than 2 mils.
The board has some options to consider as they build a budget for the next fiscal year.
If a district is levying for the local option budget at 30 percent and want to increase to 31 percent, a special election must be held. That has not been seen as worthwhile, Davis said, but the new bill would allow that if the 31 percent levy passed an election, the board could take it up to 33 percent for the next two years.
“That’s a little more enticing to have an election to go to 31 percent,” he noted, adding that with the property tax relief, now might be the right time to increase the LOB. A one percent increase would raise $75,000 and include an increase in state aid.
If the board wants to consider that option, a special meeting would likely be called in order to meet the deadline for holding an election in June.
Davis told the board that “some of your neighbors” will probably hold an election to increase their LOB to 31 percent with the potential for raising it to 33 percent.
He stopped short of making a recommendation on increasing the LOB, but he did recommend that the board consider a new capital outlay resolution.
The district currently levies 4 mils. The new bill provides greater flexibility in the use of capital outlay funds, including maintenance and software, which could relieve the burden on the district’s general fund.
He didn’t advocate raising the capital outlay levy, but broadening its use. He did, however, suggest that 4 mils brings in $55,000 in state aid; taking it up to 6 mils (8 is the maximum) would net another $27,000 in state money and still be below the property tax relief.
Capital outlay is set by board resolution, however patrons have the right to protest, and could demand a special election.
Davis cautioned that there is a lot of uncertainty about whether Gov. Sam Brownback will sign the bill presented to him, or if legislators will rework it in the so-called veto session when they return from a three-week spring break.
The “kicker,” Davis said, is a provision that eliminates tenure for teachers. There is speculation that after legislators go home and talk to constituents, they may have second thoughts.
A question has arisen about whether Brownback could use a line item veto, to remove that provision from the bill.
The provision is a policy, Davis said, and cannot be removed by line item.
He speculated that the governor might “take the easy way” and allow the bill to become law without a signature.
“The latest news from KASB (Kansas Association of School Boards) is ‘hold off, folks. Until this is signed into law, it’s premature,’“ Davis told the board.
Superintendent Suzan Patton had issued a similar caution to the board earlier, as she addressed the loss of teachers’ due process.
“My message to teachers and to others is ‘we need to wait and see,’“ she said. “Obviously there is a lot of disappointment on the part of teachers.”
She gave “kudos” to Rep. Marshall Christmann (R- Lyons) who kept her up to date on negotiations as the Legislature reached final agreement last weekend. She also noted that Christmann and Senator Mitch Holmes would be in Pratt for a legislative update Saturday morning and urged BOE members to be present.
There is confusion about whether current teachers would be “grandfathered in” and whether adding the provision to a funding bill is constitutional.
A related story is on Page 4 of the Tribune.