Superintendent Williams Gives Update on School Financing Plans Amid the Uncertainty Coming from Lawmakers
By ANDI WILLIAMS, Ed. D
South Barber U.S.D. 255
The current Kansas economy and the uncertainty of public school finance have left many patrons wondering about the future of South Barber Schools. For the first time in a long time, Kansas school administrators are unsure of how to make financial plans for their school districts. The administrators who were once able to plan for years in advance are now wondering about tomorrow.
Through Kansas Supreme Court (KSC) challenges, the Kansas Legislature has been charged with the duty of creating a constitutional funding system for Kansas Public Schools: their duty; to provide a system which is first equitable to all school districts, and then adequate. With regard to the first task, the KSC ruled the Legislature’s recent proposal was only in part equitable. As a result, the Legislature must return to the drawing board to create another submission. If they cannot propose what the KSC determines to be equitable, Kansas Public Schools cannot legally function with an unconstitutional financial framework. The responsibility lies completely with the Legislature.
More specifically, USD 255 has been monitoring the Kansas economic happenings. While we do not possess the crystal ball which tells us exactly what the future holds, we have created multiple possible budget scenarios to address current and future budget constraints. Those scenarios are fluid, changing as the dynamics of the Kansas economy changes.
The included graph depicts the school district valuation over the last eight years. As the district valuation increased, the Local Option Budget (LOB) mill rates decreased. Each year, the school district maximized the mill rate to generate the same cash funds as the year before. As assessed valuation decreased, the value of the mill also decreased, therefore requiring more mills to generate those same cash funds. Now that the oil production windfall is on the down-hill slide, the economy of USD 255 is returning to the status it had similarly in 2008.
Because the school district’s assessed valuation is expected to drop by nearly half for the second time in two years, property owners in the district can expect the LOB mill rates to increase dramatically. All of this county financial activity happens without a vote and is within the limits of the authority of the school district. By accessing Extraordinary Needs Funds last year, the district was able to keep the LOB mill rates at a state low of 6.1. That will not be the case for the upcoming school year. I will do what I can to keep the mill rates as low as possible while generating the same cash funds.
At all times, school district personnel do what we can to be as efficient as possible. Our number one goal will always be to provide the best rigorous education possible for our students. At the same time, we must be good stewards of the finances. We scrutinize financial decisions on a daily basis, reduce waste where we can, minimize utility expenses, streamline instructional purchases, and only hire for positions where absolutely needed. We value our educational staff and their daily contributions to the success of each student. We have not had to cut instructional positions but absorb where we can. Today’s economic demands force creativity on our part. Creativity is a good thing.
If you have specific questions, please contact me at the school district office any time. If I do not have the answers you need, I’ll find them.