Funds found to fill state aid gap



February 15, 2011 - 12:00 AM

USD 257 stands to lose $315,000 in state aid before the current school year ends on June 30.
That will come from a base per-pupil cut of $75 to $3,937 recommended by Gov. Sam Brownback. Additional cuts are anticipated in 2011-12.
Dr. Craig Neuenswander, an old hand at coping with state aid losses, told board members Monday night they could deal with the immediate loss by reducing transfers from general operations and use money previously set aside as a cushion in the utilities fund. A third source is reimbursements, mainly those from the federal government for technology purchases.
When this year’s budget was compiled, $3.715 million in transfers were included for at-risk education, driver’s education, food service and special education. As the year has progressed, it has become apparent that those transfers are running ahead of need and that $209,000 of the transferred money probably could be returned to the general operations budget without putting programs at risk.
Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, said he would be comfortable with cutting transfers to at-risk education, both K-12 and preschool, by $112,000, leaving a balance for the remainder of the year at nearly $48,000. The food service transfer could be cut by $50,000, he said, and that for special education by $35,000. A driver’s ed reduction of $12,000 would not put it in jeopardy, he said.
Another $42,000 appears to be available in money set aside for utilities, Neuenswander said, and to date the district has received reimbursement on purchases of $65,705.
Those budget modifications total $316,750, or $1,600 more than the projected deficit.
Neuenswander did not ask for action on the budget changes, pending legislative action that would trigger a per-pupil state aid cut. He did point out that more cuts could be made, that utility costs might rise, if another siege of winter weather occurred, and that transfer reductions might fall to victim to needs within funds affected.
He is not optimistic that cuts will be any less than anticipated.
Neuenswander said bills introduced in the House would make even deeper cuts this year and the only funding increase being considered was one for additional state money for special education. That measure is in the Senate and was advanced because state level cuts to special education would result in federal aid cuts.
Waiting in the district budget wings is $500,000 in contingency reserve funds that could be used to meet state aid losses.
However, expanding all or most of that money to make up for state funding reductions would put the district in a severe bind if anything unforeseen occurred, Neuenswander cautioned.

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