Archive for Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Zoellner warns De Soto district to face tough times

December 3, 2008

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner warned the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education Monday that tough times requiring difficult decisions were on the horizon.

Before the Kansas Legislature adjourned in May, it committed to increasing base aid to the state’s school districts by $59 per pupil for the 2009-2010 school year. But seven months of bad economic news has changed that picture.

Zoellner said it now appeared as if no new money would be forthcoming for the 2009-2010 year, which starts July 1, 2009.

“We’re going to be impacted like we’ve never been impacted before,” she said. “If we don’t receive any new money next year, we’ll be in the hole starting July 1.”

Zoellner said she was warning the board and although she broadly outlined a means of dealing with the financial crisis, she said a fully developed process or timeline was not yet available.

The administration would do the “grunt work” in identifying priorities and then invite the staff and community to tell the district what was important, Zoellner said. The board would also be involved in that discussion, she said.

The goal was to build a community priority consensus “this winter” so that the district would be in position to deal with the Legislature’s spring decision, the superintendent said.

Her goal would be to protect current positions and salaries “if I can,” Zoellner said.

Board member Jim Thomas of Shawnee remembered the last time the district experienced difficult decisions when state revenues fell in 2001 with a recession. In January of that year with the district facing $1.9 million in cuts, the board had Saturday meetings in which in considered what to cut line item by line item.

“That was not fun,” Thomas said.

The current situation would be worse, Zoellner said.

It could get even worse. Zoellner’s remarks to the Board referred to the Legislature’s probable move not to provide funds promised for the 2009-2010 school year. But cuts could also be coming to the current school year.

Last month, the governor’s budget office proposed cutting the current K-12 education budget by $11 million.

Should that or any other cut affecting the 2008-2009 district budget occur, the district and the board would have little or no time to seek community input on where cuts would be made, Zoellner said.

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