Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2009

USD 232 Budget cuts take shape

February 26, 2009

Six months after the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education approved a 2008-2009 budget, the district is beginning to get a clearer picture of how much money it has to spend.

The budget was approved in August before the consequences of the recession on state revenue were revenue were known or even anticipated. At that time, it was optimistically thought local school districts would be in line for an increase in state per-pupil funding approved by the Legislature.

Five months of disappointing state revenue collections changed that picture and the question became how much would the state be forced to cut state per-pupil funding from the previous year.

On Feb. 17, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius provided clarity when she signed Senate Bill 23, after vetoing a portion of the bill she said would have devastated school districts. The original bill would have slashed $32 million from education. Instead, Sebelius signed the bill to cut $7 million from K-12 education.

In a press release, Sebelius commented on her decision.

“Drastically reducing state aid to schools, with only three months left in the school year, leaves children, parents and teachers in a needless financial predicament. Similarly, reducing funding for special education services in the middle of the school year is pointlessly punitive to those students in need of additional assistance. The state also must preserve special education funding to ensure we can access federal stimulus funds requiring maintenance of effort in special education spending at the state level,” she said in the release.

De Soto USD 232 is determining if more needs to be done to accommodate the 2009 cuts as the Legislature continues debate on an element of the current school funding package.

The De Soto School District is expected to receive a cut of $306,671 from the current budget. However, the total number of cuts could close in on $400,000 if Senate Bill 73 does not pass.

Senate Bill 73 would hold the local option budget for school districts harmless. If the bill does not pass the district will lose 3 percent from every dollar the state cuts from the school’s budget.

Ken Larsen, USD 232 budget and finance director, said the district put a freeze on purchasing anything except for necessities.

“Really that would be the only thing that we have put into place,” Larsen said. “There are certain things out there we can’t do anything about this late in the year. When you have contracts out, you have to honor those.”

Larsen said the district would also find savings from fuel prices. The district budgeted more for fuel costs after gas prices reached all-time highs this summer.

“Fuel won’t cost as much as we anticipated because it has come down since budgeting in the summer, so we’ll have some budget savings from there,” he said.

The federal stimulus could also have a positive effect for the district, but it is not yet known what schools will receive from the federal dollars.

Now, the district will monitor the state’s progress in dealing with the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, which is expected to have far deeper cuts to K-12 education.

The district created a community budget review committee to discuss areas the district should look into cutting. The committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Education.

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