SMSD board approves legislative platform as superintendent renews warning about potential for withheld funds

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The financial turmoil that continues to churn in Topeka as the next legislative session approaches is likely to again pose funding challenges to the Shawnee Mission School District, Superintendent Jim Hinson told the Board of Education Monday.

Delivering the monthly financial report, during which he told board members that to date the district is on pace to meet its revenue and spending projections for the fiscal year, Hinson said that Kansas’s inability to meet its own revenue projections could lead to withholdings for K-12 schools before school lets out for summer.

“That’s going to be dictated to us by the state of Kansas,” Hinson said. “I have significant concern through the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, that the state’s going to be able to fulfill their commitment and obligation for K-12 funding. I hope I am grossly incorrect.”

Hinson said that while no reduced allotments were imminent, the state’s revenue troubles likely spelled problems in the coming months.

“No withholdings right now,” he said. “But certainly we could have future board meetings after the first of the year talking about ‘We’re not going to receive X amount of money because of the state’s inability.”

“I guess if you’re going to go out and do holiday shopping, buy a lot of things,” Hinson said, in apparent reference to the increase in state sales tax approved by the legislature early this summer.

Hinson’s comments came moments after the board unanimously approved its legislative agenda for the year. Stuart Little, the district’s Topeka lobbyist, noted that the district’s platform for the current session again included opposition to reductions in school funding and support for a new formula that is “financially sustainable, promotes greater local funding flexibility, and ensures educational excellence for all students in Kansas.”

Stuart also pointed out that, after discussions with local legislators, the district had included a provision opposing reductions in funding and support for mental and behavioral health services, which can have an impact on students facing mental health issues.

“There are going to some things that are going to come up in this legislative session about particularly juvenile mental health services, substance abuse services and the lapsing over into the correctional system that we may have to take a careful look at,” Little said.

The legislative platform adopted unanimously by the board of education is embedded below.

https://dfv6pkw99pxmo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/24085452/LegislativePlatform_2016_draft_rev3.pdf