The Shawnee Mission School District is bracing for the prospect of mid-year payment cuts from the state of Kansas for the second year in a row, Superintendent Jim Hinson indicated at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
State revenues came in $53 million under budget for the month of February, and officials have warned the trend may continue when figures for March are released Friday. Should the latest tally come in well below expectations, Gov. Sam Brownback would likely be forced to cut more money from the state’s budget — including the possibility of K-12 education.
Brownback ordered cuts of $44.5 million to university and K-12 budgets in February 2015 to close a $280 budget gap. In the wake of this February’s dismal revenue figures, Brownback cut $17 million from higher education budgets for the rest of the fiscal year, but made no cuts to K-12.
“Certainly we believe the March and/or the April state revenues will probably dictate what happens in relation to any potential allotments, or cuts, to K-12,” Hinson told the school board.
As for the impact a new round of cuts would have on district operations, Hinson said much is up in the air. While the district is not planning for layoffs or program cuts at this point, severe allotments would force the district to take a hard look at every expense.
“If the bottom really drops out of the state revenue and if we have allotments and they are severe, multiple millions, we have to go back and rethink everything,” he said. “But right now we’re hoping they’re minimal or non-existent.”
Hinson noted that the prospect of allotments isn’t the only uncertainty causing serious challenges for the district. Though the district supported the “hold harmless” financing plan passed by the legislature last week, there are serious questions about whether the bill will meet the Supreme Court’s requirement to equitable fund all Kansas schools. Hinson said he believed the bill met the requirements set by the Supreme Court, but that you can “never be confident when anything goes to court.”
Here’s Hinson discussing the district’s support of the bill:
Hinson supported the block grant bill passed by the legislature last year in large part because it gave school district’s a semblance of certainty of how much funding they would have to work with for the 2015-16 school year. But, as he acknowledged Monday, there is still much uncertainty surrounding school finance in Kansas.
“That’s the sleepless night part of it is the unknown,” he said. “You hear all kinds of stories about what might be happening with the state revenue right now. But what’s the truth, we don’t know the answer to that question… Our biggest concern right now is the unknown, and the timing of the unknown.”