Funding tight for USD

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November 9, 2010 - 12:00 AM

USD 257 might face budget cuts before the 2010-11 school year concludes, Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, told board members Monday night.
Neuenswander said Dale Dennis, financial expert with the State Board of Education, had projected a $50 million shortfall in the current state budget for K-12 education due to three factors: increased enrollment statewide; a higher number of students qualifying for free meals; and lower total assessed valuation statewide.
More students qualifying for free meals will demand more state aid in the funding formula and lower overall assessed valuation will cut into revenue from the statewide 20-mill ad valorem tax levy that supports public education.
Such a shortfall would equate to a $75 per pupil cut in general fund state aid, Neuenswander said, and added Dennis had suggested that a portion of funds from the federal jobs bill might be used to offset the reduction.
Neuenswander also pointed out that next year the state will lose about $492 million in federal stimulus funds.
“State Budget Director Duane Goossen thinks about $423 million of that could be offset by making transfers within the state budget,” Neuenswander noted, with the decision being soon-to-be-governor Sam Brownback’s and a Republican-laden Legislature.
Meanwhile, Schools for Fair Funding, with USD 257’s participation, has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop funding cuts in education; to restore the funding that has been cut ($303 million so far); protect the basic structure of the funding formula; and to fully fund the formula.
“The lawsuit is about adequacy of funding,” Neuenswander said, but won’t result in immediate financial help for school districts.
“A three-judge panel has been appointed to hear the case,” he said. “It could be up to a year before it actually is in court, and after a decision there likely will be an appeal.”

MEETING as Bowlus Fine Arts Center trustees, board members agreed to lease mineral rights for five acres the Bowlus Trust owns in Oklahoma. Financial consideration is $150 an acre and 3/16 royalty.
Board members accepted a bid of $1,589.98, the highest of three, for a surplus and largely worn out 1998 bus.
Neuenswander told them moldy drywall in middle and high schools basements would be removed and replaced at a cost of $4,300. The work will be done when the schools are not in session.

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