District short $3.2M for 2015

By Bryan Richardson

Early projections show USD 383 having $3.2 million less in its fiscal year 2015 budget authority than the FY14 budget approved in August, according to information presented at the USD 383 school board meeting Wednesday.

“That’s not a pretty picture,” budget director Lew Faust said.

The term “budget authority” refers to how the district receives funding from state and local property taxes - as opposed to the simple reference to a “budget.

“Local option budget” refers to money received from property taxes.

Faust projected the FY15 budget authority at $45.99 million, which he said would likely change between now and budget approval this coming August.

The board approved around $49.2 million in budget authority in August 2013.

Since then, there have been some key developments, including enrollment remaining flat despite a projected increase — causing a FY14 budget reduction.

The state legislature approved a FY15 budget increase of state aid per pupil by $14 to $3,852, which provides a $127,508 increase to the district.

The biggest difference between the FY14 and FY 15 budgets for USD 383 is the lack of virtual education funds, which reflects the uncertain status of virtual education’s future in the district.

The board followed the administration’s recommendation to end the district’s contract with K12 Inc., the virtual school provider for iQ Academy Kansas.

District officials are currently examining options for the district running its own virtual school, but no plans have been determined yet.

This virtual school decrease doesn’t necessarily have a major effect on the district’s operations with 90 percent (about $1.04 million) going directly to the virtual school provider.

Faust said the district also could receive $211,860 for its all-day kindergarten should the legislature approve an all-day kindergarten phase for the entire state.

Other possible increases discussed Wednesday included $400,000 in cash reserves, $655,190 in FY14 reductions being carried over and $460,023 from increasing the local option budget to 30 percent of the general fund budget — a 0.83 mill increase.

The state sets 30 percent as the maximum amount that a school district can raise its local option budget without going to a ballot. USD 383’s local option budget currently sits at 27.7 percent.

Faust said this would still leave the district with $440,560 less in FY15 than the adopted FY14 budget.

The projections presented Wednesday also don’t include any projected enrollment increase.

Associate Superintendent Bob Seymour said the district is still preparing its enrollment projection, which administrators will present to the board at a later date.

Faust also provided the board a glimpse of how the picture would change if the state aid per pupil was $4,433, the peak that district would have received in 2008-09 before the economic downturn began.

This is also the amount the state allows school districts to use for their local option budgets.

Under that amount, the FY15 budget authority would be $51.28 million, nearly a $5.3 million difference from the FY15 budget projected Wednesday.

“It’s a reminder of what leadership at the state level has decided we need — or don’t need — to operate,” Superintendent Bob Shannon said.

The Kansas Supreme Court is deciding whether to uphold a lower court’s decision on a school funding lawsuit that required the state to increase its base aid per pupil to $4,492.

The legislature intended to reach $4,492 by the 2009-10 school year following the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling in 2005 that the state funded education inadequately.

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