Archive for Thursday, February 5, 2009

Senator: Education must share in cuts

February 5, 2009

You can’t spend money you don’t have. That was state Sen. John Vratil’s message Monday evening at the De Soto’s USD 232 Board of Education meeting.

Vratil, R-Leawood, addressed the boards concerns about the current legislative session and the looming cuts to K-12 education.

Vratil answered questions on Senate Bill 20, which would suspend state subsidy paid for bond and interest payments for a period of two years beginning on Jan. 1, 2009. The bill was introduced to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 14 by Sen. Jay Emler, R-McPherson, but has not been heard on the floor.

“The idea was to anticipate the net fiscal year that $9.5 million would be paid out with that program,” he said. “The states situation under the latest figures are now about 207 million in the red for the current fiscal year and about $1 billion in the red for the 2010 fiscal year. So $9 million here and $9 million there helps make up the deficit. If you don’t have the money you can’t spend it. It’s one of the many ways to save money.”

If passed the bill would affect the recently passed bond issue in USD 232. The district currently receives 13 percent state aid for bonds and interest. Patrons of the community would have to foot the bill if aid were suspended.

There are currently three proposals in the Legislature regarding the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

The first proposal by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius would slash $22 of the base state aid per pupil in the district and additional cuts would be made to special education programs. Under the first proposal the district would lose $222,491 for the current fiscal year.

The second proposal, a substitute for Senate Bill 23 as approved by the Senate, would slash the base state aid per pupil by $33 and make additional cuts to special education programs. The total reductions for the district would total $306,671.

The final proposal by the House would be the most devastating to the district, cutting base state aid per pupil by $88, along with cuts to special education. Total cuts for the district would be $806,195 for the current fiscal year.

Vratil told the board there were a lot of thing that would happen in the Legislature that won’t be fair and won’t be reasonable. He said the constituents must tell their representatives how they are affected by the cuts.

“We can cut $1 billion of our 6.5 billion budget, that’s a 16 percent cut,” he said. “If we don’t cut education you have to cut everyone else by 32 percent. Think about cutting prisons — we’d have to close prisons and turn convicts on the street. Or the other choice is to raise taxes. I’m sure that patrons don’t want to do that.”

Asked what will happen if the economy continues to worsen, Vratil said more cuts would have to be made.

In other reports from the meeting, USD 232 Superintendent Sharon Zoellner briefed the board on the progress of the budget review committee.

Zoellner said the review committee made a $4 million list of things that could be suspended or eliminated. However, Zoellner said the list was fluid and would likely change before a presentation would be made to the board in May.

The committee meets again from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the District Administration Building building, 35200 W. 91 St., De Soto.

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