Kansas school districts budget woes

Austin Ellis, News Editor

The district is still in the decision stages for the budget regarding the remainder of the school year and next school year. There have been some decisions made for certain aspects of this year’s budget.

“I have worked very closely with the department chairs and they’ve done a really good job of getting what they need without just spending. I think we do a good job on spending anyways. We don’t just spend to spend it,” Linda Wiley, principal, said.

In an attempt to save money, Concordia Unified School District (USD) 333, Twin Valley USD 240, Smoky Valley USD 400, Haven USD 312, Skyline USD 438 and Shawnee Heights USD 450 have announced they will be ending school early in an attempt to save money. While it hasn’t officially been decided upon yet, USD 501 has looked into closing early but there have been some trepidations to this idea because of concerns around staff who would lose out on the money they would earn on the days cut.

“I think they’re trying really hard not to affect personnel and things like activities and sports, things that directly affect kids,” Wiley said. “I think they try to work together on what kind of things they do but I know they have been trying to protect positions and personnel.”

Wiley said that the district also has to consider what other districts around are doing.

“Many of our classified staff depend on their salary and cutting days for some of our staff would cause hardships for their families.  Also, our families would have to make arrangements for their children, especially smaller children, which could be difficult at this point,” Julie Ford, USD 501 superintendent, said.

The decisions the district are attempting to make have not brought into account 501 employees who have children who attend school in a district getting out before they are.

According to Ford, the 501 district has been making an attempt to make the school calendar mirror the school calendars a neighboring districts so students will stay on the same timeline.

“The board has worked hard to increase instructional days in Topeka Public Schools to make them comparable to other Shawnee County school districts,” Ford said.

Despite this, other Shawnee county school districts, such as Shawnee Heights USD 450, Seaman USD 345, and Auburn-Washburn USD 437, will be ending the year between May 19 and 22. In contrast, USD 501 will be ending May 27. This means students in 501 will be getting out five to seven days later than the other districts. In terms of money, the amount of time remaining open could cost the district approximately between $3-$4 million.

“For this school year 2014-15 the Business Office of Topeka Public Schools has processed an average of $663,439 in payments per business day. Payments are largely payroll and benefit related as well as to supply vendors (food service, classroom, etc..), student transportation, maintenance & remodeling contractors, utilities and other professional technical services,” Gary Menke, General Director Fiscal Services, said.

In a recent WIBW story, Ford said Governor Brownback signed a block grant funding bill which means the district must cut $23,000 a day between March and the end of June. With the future funding still remaining uncertain, decisions concerning the budget for the remainder of this year and upcoming years are still being discussed amongst the district board.