Archive for Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Increase in school aid offset by higher insurance costs

June 5, 2002

Increased insurance costs likely will eat up any additional state money coming to Tonganoxie schools.

A $20 increase in per-pupil funding approved by the state Legislature will translate into about $36,000 additional money next year for Tonganoxie, according to Superintendent Richard Erickson.

"But I think our property and casualty insurance is going up $36,000, so that's just kind of a wash," he said.

Rep. Ken Wilk, R-Lansing, said the Tonganoxie school district is typical of others in Kansas.

"We did put the $20 in the budget that's listed as an increase," said Wilk, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "But the problem is you have a declining enrollment in the schools. So even though you're putting an extra $20 in the base, schools are actually getting less money this year than they did last year."

According to state projections, $2.33 billion will be spent on K-12 education during the 2003 fiscal year, Wilk said. That is close to what it was a year ago, he said.

To help offset a projected $700 million state deficit which now is estimated at $860 million lawmakers approved a $252 million tax increase for fiscal year 2003.

Despite the state's fragile economy, Wilk said schools are certain to receive the additional $20 per student, which statewide, amounts to about $11.5 million.

"The $20 is actually a sure thing because it's coming from an account that we've been holding some of the tobacco settlement money in so we're putting it in schools," Wilk said.

Bolstering local school districts is the local option budget, a tax that school boards can levy. State law allows the maximum LOB to be set at 25 percent of the general fund budget. In Tonganoxie, last year's LOB was set at 21.1 percent. Erickson said he will recommend that the board increase that to 23 percent, which would generate about $120,000 for the district.

Erickson said Tonganoxie's budget for the upcoming school year would be about $7 million in the general fund budget, about $1.5 million in the LOB and funds from various smaller budgets, for a total of $9.5 million to $10 million.

Erickson said he would have preferred that the Legislature appropriate more money for schools. But he said he's relieved there was an increase at all.

"I really felt that with the deficits that our legislators were working with I was pleased with what they could do this year for public education," Erickson said. "I hope in the future that they can do a great deal more. They need to. They made some tough decisions and raised some tax revenues that were critical to public education."

Wilk agreed that the session was tough: "It was certainly the most difficult session I've ever participated in," he said. "We're a long ways from the end of the road in the fiscal challenges that we have, but we've put a Band-Aid on it for the time being."

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