USD 259 Budget Planning The 'Perfect Storm Of Unknowns'
Wichita Public Schools' budget for this year has been proceeding according to plan. Next year, though, is another story.
On Monday night, Susan Willis, chief financial officer for the district, told school board members that budget planning for the 2017-18 school year is "the perfect storm of unknowns."
“The block grants are coming to an end, the state doesn’t have a new funding formula developed, our state is in deep financial trouble and we are still waiting for the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on school funding adequacy,” Willis said.
Consequently, the district is planning to craft a budget for the coming school year that anticipates flat funding, even though officials know there will be cost increases for utilities, insurance and fuel.
On top of that, Willis said the fact that Kansas is facing a nearly $320 million budgeting shortfall means cuts to K-12 education for this fiscal year are still a possibility. A Senate bill that faltered in committee last week would have cut the Wichita district's current budget by $14 million. Willis said a severe cut this far into the school year would be difficult because many budgeted expenditures have already been made. Additionally, the remaining funds are committed to things such as teacher salaries through the end of the year.
Last year, under pressure by increasing costs and flat funding, Wichita Public Schools was forced to cut more than $22 million from its budget. Those cuts included making changes to the school year calendar, changing the health plan, eliminating hazardous bus routes, combining the alternative schools and eliminating 32 job positions.
Willis said they will review cuts that were made last year and see how they had an impact on the district.
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