Special education co-op runs short on year-end funds
There's nothing like getting an unexpected bill when a budget's already tight.
On May 20, the Tonganoxie school district received a bill for $54,808 from the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative. The bill described the balance due as an "adjusted yearly contribution."
This is in addition to the $525,000 the Tonganoxie school district has already paid LCSEC for its contracted special education services during the 2003-2004 school year.
The cooperative provides special education services for Tonganoxie, Leavenworth, Lansing, Fort Leavenworth, Basehor-Linwood and Easton school districts.
According to Cathy Bray, secretary to the director of LCSEC, the co-op serves 258 students who live in the Tonganoxie school district. Of these, 225 students receive their services locally, and 33 other students are served at various areas in the county. The coop served about 2,300 students during the 2004-05 school year.
Tonganoxie school board member Ron Moore told board members he was disappointed with the LCSEC's assessment. He noted LCSEC's total year-end deficit, which was divided among the county's school districts, was $350,000.
"You can't afford to overrun your budget by $350,000 and then just say we're going to assess our members -- that's irresponsible," Moore said.
Joy Fairley, director LCSEC, said it's difficult to know in advance what it will cost to run the cooperative. That's because it's impossible to predict the number of special education students, she said.
"We serve approximately 2,300 students countywide and every year that goes up," Fairley said. "Last year we were around 2,100."
Currently, it takes about 300 employees to operate LCSEC, Fairley said. This includes teachers, paraeducators, administrators and others.
Tonganoxie school superintendent Richard Erickson said school superintendents in the county have asked Kansas Association of School Boards to audit the cooperative. And, they've also asked Alan Shuler, former deputy superintendent of the Leavenworth school district, to review the LCSEC's projects for the next year Erickson said.
Board member Ron Moore said he'd like to see an alternative means of providing special education services in the district.
"I wish we could get out of the Leavenworth cooperative and find a more cost effective means to provide this service," Moore said.
"That would be my hope," Erickson said. "But right now we need to pass a bond election so that we could have the facilities to have our own special education program -- that's the thing that's holding us up."