Budget cuts approved for schools, universities
Schools and universities will receive a reduction in state funding from their current budgets this spring after Gov. Sam Brownback used executive order last week to trim their budgets by $44.5 million.
Gov. Brownback said the cuts are needed to make up for lower-than-expected sales tax revenues.
The cuts include a 1.5 percent reduction, or $28.3 million, in funding to public schools, as well as a 2 percent reduction, or $16.2 million, in funding for higher education. The cuts are expected to take effect March 7, it was reported.
The cuts to education, as well as bill to balance the budget, are expected to erase a $344 million state deficit. Lawmakers have been looking for ways to fix the current budget by Feb. 13 to ensure the state pays its bills on time through the summer, it was reported. A $600 million shortfall, however, is projected for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“The dramatic increase in state education funding that has occurred over the last four years is unsustainable,” Gov. Brownback said in a statement released on Thursday. “School districts are estimated to have approximately $381 million in reserve fund balances to help them offset the smaller than expected increase in state funding. The Kansas Department of Education should work with school districts to help them with any cash flow challenges that may arise.”
Kansas school officials dispute the governor’s assessment that there has been a dramatic increase in state education funding.
The 1.5 percent emergency decrease will reduce the state aid per pupil rate by $42. The current base state per pupil rate is $3,852.
In May 2012, Brownback signed into law the state’s largest income tax cuts in hopes of boosting the economy. The tax cuts are now being blamed for triggering the budget crisis.
Brownback has also called for delaying $54 million in equalization aid to schools, as well as called for reform of the equalization formula used to fund schools. Senate Bill 71 has been proposed during the current legislative session that would reduce the state aid from last year’s bill by nearly $40 million for the current year by recalculating the way it is distributed.
“I am calling on the Legislature to reform equalization factors in the current school finance formula over the next 30 days to stall the increase of $54 million in Local Option Budget State Aid and Capital Outlay State Aid spending that was not appropriated by the Legislature in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget bill,” said Gov. Brownback in a statement. “By reforming the equalization factors, the legislature could, and should, restore the 1.5 percent allotment.”
Under Senate Bill 71, which would immediately reduce Local Option Budget state aid to school districts, Holton USD 336 would be cut $59,902, Royal Valley would be cut $45,915 and Jackson Heights would be cut $29,618.
The governor, along with the State Legislature, have cut budgets for schools so much in the past four years that the Kansas Supreme Court last year declared school funding levels unconstitutional.
That lawsuit, Gannon vs. State, claims that poorer (rural) school district are not receiving equitable funding compared with wealthier (urban) districts and that total state aid to schools is inadequate.