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Proposed Cuts By Kansas Legislature Could Cost Local Districts Millions

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

It took many by surprise, but the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee passed out a bill Tuesday that would cut $154 million out of the budget by July 1, the vast majority coming from education.

Of the proposed cuts, education shoulders 98 percent of the total. More than $127 million of the cuts would come from K-12 and another $23 million from higher education. 

In Johnson County, the plan would result in millions of dollars in cuts:

  • Blue Valley would be cut $4,562,312.
  • Olathe would be cut $6,354,029.
  • Shawnee Mission would be cut $6,201,682.
  • Gardner Edgerton would be cut $1,234,240.
  • De Soto would be cut $1,521,135.
  • Spring Hill would be cut $790,983.

While Spring Hill takes the smallest hit, it could be in the most trouble. Proponents want districts to use some of their savings accounts to make up for the cuts. On January 1, Spring Hill had $752,196 in the bank, according to a spreadsheet created by the Kansas Legislative Research Department. That means if the full Senate approves the cuts are approved by the full Senate, and the politics there are complicated, Spring Hill would end up $38,787 in the hole.
"It's disheartening to us here in Turner," says Doug Powers, Director of Business Services in the district. "We're working on 2008, 2009 funding levels and we've cut and cut and cut."

In all, 32 districts across Kansas are in the same boat.

Here's how the cuts impact schools in Wyandotte County:

  • Kansas City, Kansas would be cut $6,492,203.
  • Bonner Springs would be cut $666,791.
  • Piper would be cut $436,929.
  • Turner would be cut $1,187,024.

Turner is in the same predicament as Spring Hill. A five percent cut paid for by savings would leave the district $1,017,460 in the red.
The Kansas Board of Regents might just be getting used to these kinds of cuts. The Ways and Means Committee bill would cut universities and community colleges by a total of $22,712,843, a three percent across the board cut.

“Higher education has had more than $75 million cut over the past three years, and $38 million of those reductions were taken from this year’s budget,” Regents chair Zoe Newton said in a statement. “By recommending an additional cut of $22.7 million, this late in the current fiscal year, the legislature would be signaling their support for further shifting the cost of higher education today to our students and their families.”

This is by no means the final word. Senators who voted to pass the bill out of committee might seek to reduce the proposed cuts when the bill reaches the floor. This might also be a negotiating point when lawmakers start to debate how much to cut from the budget or how much to raise taxes to cover a $310 million budget hole before July 1.

And we don't know what kind of plans for the budget and taxes will come out of the Kansas House.

Sam Zeffcovers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service and is host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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