With cuts looming and costs rising, Shawnee Mission school funding puzzle getting more complicated, warns superintendent

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Shawnee Mission administrators will be looking to “do more with less” for the coming school year, said Superintendent Jim Hinson on Monday.

Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson delivered a bleak assessment on Monday of the district’s financial prospects for the coming year amid the latest news that Kansas was facing another massive budget hole.

“Fiscally, there are so many things in question right now. Unfortunately, all of those potential answers are negative. None of those include any increased revenue right now for the Shawnee Mission School District,” Hinson said. “The very best case scenario is flat funding — in relation to millions of dollars in increased costs.”

With its costs for meeting basic overhead — including increased utility bills and a likely increase in the funds needed to ensure reliable bus service — the district was already facing some tough financial decisions. That was before April’s consensus revenue figures came out showing Kansas was projected to take in $250 million less than expected.

One of the proposed budget-balancing solutions Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration revealed last week would include a $57 million cut to K-12 education. Brownback has suggested the option with across-the-board budget reductions that would hit public schools was his least preferred, but the fact that it’s on the table at all poses yet another challenge to local administrators who had already expressed serious concerns with the uncertainty surrounding their funding.

It’s unclear at this point exactly how such a K-12 cut would be implemented, specifically which budget pools or districts would be affected the most. But Hinson said any cut would have a major impact on the district’s ability to finance all of its operations.

“However they slice the pie, it will be multiple millions of dollars in loss of revenue to the Shawnee Mission School District,” Hinson said. “Again, how the pie is really sliced will determine if that’s three million, if that’s six million, what that really looks like. But it will be significant.”

Hinson said Shawnee Mission will continue to look for ways to improve efficiency, but that tough choices were likely on the horizon.

“How do we do more with less? That’s the issue that we continue to face,” Hinson said. “As you know we have faced that for a number of years. Certainly that picture is not currently changing.”

Video of Hinson’s full remarks on the budget situation is embedded below: