Archive for Thursday, February 19, 2009

Board candidates look, reflect on USD 232’s budget woes

February 19, 2009

The state budget hasn’t been far from the minds of candidates vying for a spot on the USD 232’s Position 4 election April 7.

Last Thursday, the Kansas Senate and Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill that would cut $66 in base state aid per pupil to state school districts. The bill currently awaits Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ approval.

Over the past several months the board of education and the district’s administration have taken steps to prepare for tough cuts.

The views of the five primary candidates vary on the issue of budget cuts, however, maintaining education appears to be the No. 1 priority.

Randy Johnson, Position 4 incumbent, said the No. 1 issue facing the school board was where to make cuts.

“We can not raise taxes,” Johnson said of ways to deal with cuts. “We are currently looking at class size and other areas through public input.”

Jeff Hopkins, De Soto, said the board is not close enough to the operations of the school to identify specific accounts or areas for cuts.

“The board has chosen a capable superintendent who has the responsibility to identify the areas for reduction with input from her team and district residents,” Hopkins said. “We have been very fortunate for many years with our availability of funds to support education in USD 232. Unfortunately, the generous funds will not be available for the next few years. This will require the district and residents to make decisions. This will also require the parents to step up and pay for a few more items until this economic situation passes.”

Roger Templin, De Soto, said the current administration has been proactive in the area of budget cuts, but it was impossible to please every constituent when faced with cuts.

“Open exchange with the administration, the Board and patrons will lead to better budgetary decisions,” he said. “It would be my priority to minimize the impact of such cuts upon delivery of educational services to the classroom.

Margaret Johnson, De Soto, said a very detailed look at the budget was necessary.

“Cuts will have to be made but never at the cost to the quality of education,” she said. “The board will need to be creative and look at all needs, just as a family in crisis would look at their budget.”

Gregory Hines, De Soto, said he had ideas for the budget but wouldn’t elaborate until the Legislature passes a final draft.

“There is nobody that knows what’s going to happen in the next twelve months,” he said. “There is so much rhetoric out there that has people’s heads spinning. A big part of the budget is spent on employees’ cost. We don’t look at what the big cost is for the taxpayers.”

The primary for Position 4 will be March 3. Only residents living in USD 232’s Position 4, which includes small portions of west Shawnee and west Lenexa, De Soto and the unincorporated areas south and west of De Soto, can vote in the primary. The primary will narrow the ballot to three candidates who will vie for the seat districtwide.

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