Shawnee Mission board officially approves elimination of elementary textbook, all-day kindergarten fees — with strong caveats

Dr. Jim Hinson told the school board the elimination of the fees was contingent on the legislature fully funding the block grant bill.
Dr. Jim Hinson told the school board the elimination of the fees was contingent on the legislature fully funding the block grant bill.

The Shawnee Mission School Board on Monday officially approved a fee schedule for the 2015-2016 school year that would eliminate all fees for the elementary level — though Superintendent Jim Hinson stressed that the implementation of the schedule was contingent on the legislature fulling funding the block grant bill passed earlier this year, an outcome that seems increasingly unsure as lawmakers wrestle with an even bigger than expected budget hole as the veto session begins this week.

Hinson first announced the district’s intent to eliminate textbook and all-day kindergarten fees last month. He said Monday that the estimated cost to the district would be $1.8 million dollars, an amount the district could manage if its expected state funding comes through.

“We certainly trust that that occurs,” he said of the legislature fully funding the block grant bill. “That needs to occur for a lot of the initiatives that we’re looking at.”

Even with the elimination of elementary school textbook fees, Hinson said the district expects to take in slightly more in its textbook fund than it will expend. Also, by eliminating the collection of such fees, a significant amount of time will be freed up for clerical staff to focus on other functions. The district’s business office estimated that by eliminating the need for staff to work of fee collection (approximately 28 percent of the fees the district assesses go uncollected), approximately $225,000 in staff time would be freed up. Hinson noted that no clerical staff reductions are planned, but the impact on their ability to focus on other functions would be significant.

In addition to the uncertainty about the legislature fully funding the block grant bill, Hinson noted that the timing of the judges’ decision in the ongoing school finance case could impact their ability to move forward with the fees elimination.

“Certainly we’ll monitor [the court case] will great interest to see what occurs,” he said.